Martin Sayer ’09 arrived at Radford in 2005 and blazed a path of glory on the men’s tennis team. He racked up a 114-25 record and received Big South Player of the Year honors four years in a row. He is now an assistant coach under Mike Anderson, and one of his pupils is his brother Nicholas.
Nicholas Sayer, an RU freshman, is hoping to blaze his own trail to Big South stardom. And he is renewing family ties — before he enrolled at Radford, the two brothers had been separated for seven years. Now they are together not only on the courts, they share housing off campus.
The Sayers brothers are British but grew up in Hong Kong, where their father worked for an engineering company. The two were always close: “We were pretty much clones,” Martin said. Both enjoyed playing sports as children, and each decided at about age 12 to focus on tennis.
“We went about that plan with our own quirks and methods, but we were very similar to each other growing up,” Martin said. “Someone told me that they saw a good picture of me playing tennis, but it was actually of Nicholas.”
In 2003 the rising cost of living in Hong Kong brought the Sayers family to a crossroads. Hong Kong had been a British colony from the mid 1800s to 1997, when China regained sovereignty. The Chinese government mandated that all public schools teach in Mandarin, meaning that English-speaking students like the Sayers would have to seek private education, which was approaching $100,000 a year and was too expensive for the Sayers family.
Martin stayed in Hong Kong with his father so he could train for tennis full time at the Hong Kong Sports Institute. Nicholas and the rest of the family moved back to London, where they had a home.
“It was not really that difficult of a transition for me,” Martin said. “I was used to traveling to tournaments, and I knew that I would be going off to college in two years. So it was just like college came two years earlier.” The family continued to live on two continents, getting together every summer and at Christmas.
Martin is enthusiastic about his years in Asia. “I have traveled extensively and can say that Hong Kong is the greatest city in the world,” he said, citing its many coexisting cultures and its stature as an international center of finance and commerce.
Having your brother as your tennis coach might seem awkward for some, but not for Nicholas. “He’s been a good coach. He’s treating me like a professional, and he’s treating me the same as everyone else.”
Martin agreed. “He is another member of the team to me,” he said.
“We are both similar tennis players and like to be left alone to play, so usually I leave him alone. Sometimes I will go over and chat with Nicholas to see what’s up and will occasionally tell him something that hopefully he will implement.”
Off the court the brothers spend time with each other during the week and split up to see other friends on weekends. Nicholas said his brother occasionally gives him advice on academic matters. “He’s helped me choose classes and sort out what is going to be best for me from his experience. So I’ve gained an advantage over everyone else.”
Because his brother was at Radford, Nicholas said, he had an easier time adjusting to life in the United States. “It’s nice to come over here and have a relative. It made me feel less homesick.”
The brothers say the rest of the family is happy that the two are in the same city. “It’s easier on the Skype conversations,” Nicholas joked. “My parents don’t have to worry as much with Martin here.
I think they’re both happy.”
Martin and Nicholas both say they are pleased to have chosen Radford. Since graduating two years ago, Martin said, he has had an opportunity to reflect on his campus experiences. “Traveling to other universities to compete makes you aware that RU is really a very nice place.”