Family rivalry acts as perfect motivation

Whether your surname is Klitschko, Murray, Williams or al Musharrekh, competition between siblings often provides the spur for one – or both – to succeed.

The strong ties between Serena Williams, left, and her older sister Venus, mean both are happy to see each other succeed.
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The Eisenhower Trophy tees off tomorrow in Argentina with the UAE hoping its brightest young golf talent can combine quickly enough to impress in the biennial world amateur team golf championship.

Khalid Mubarak, the UAE national coach, is well aware that individually his players have the capability to shine, but he also realises that, like in the Ryder Cup, players must perform for each other when representing a team. "They need to gel as a unit if we aim to improve our results," he said.

Fortunately for Mubarak, two of his three players will need little time to learn each others' games: they are brothers.

Abdullah and Ahmed al Musharrekh have been playing golf together since as far back as they can remember and, like the Molinaris - Edoardo and Francesco - they will be confident their special relationship can help them in Buenos Aires this weekend.

Such was Edoardo's belief in the bond with his brother that before last month's Ryder Cup took place, he promised Colin Montgomerie, the European captain, that he could guarantee a 4-0 success in foursomes and fourballs at Celtic Manor.

His claims turned out to be incorrect, but it was understandable why the Italian would be so confident having combined with Francesco to win golf's World Cup in Shanghai the previous year.

And the Molinaris were not the first siblings to compete at the biennial matchplay event. Remarkably, it had earlier occurred on four separate occasions, involving two different sets of brothers. Charles and Ernest Whitcombe, the Englishmen, represented Great Britain in 1929 and 1931 and were, in 1935, joined by younger brother Reginald to complete a triumvirate of Ryder Cup representatives from the same family.

Then, 28 years later, Geoffrey and Bernard Hunt, also from England, were chosen to play in the tournament. Only in 1935, however, were two brothers - Charles and Ernest - paired together like the Molinaris were in Wales.

Earlier this year, the Italians also became the first set of siblings for 10 years to play at the Masters, joining an impressively long list of 26 other brothers to have competed together at Augusta National.

So, from golf's Molinaris to the Emirati equivalent, the al Musharrekhs, from the Williams sisters in tennis to the Chappell brothers in cricket, to the countless Khalils and Nevilles and Toures in football, what is the secret behind siblings sharing such sporting prowess?

Abdullah al Musharrekh admits his family rivalry is very strong, but is quick to add that playing with each other has helped the younger brothers develop quicker.

"[Hassan's] game has improved quickly because he spends so much time training with us and the national team," said Abdullah. "To play at our level he has to push himself and he's done it, he's almost at our level. It's helped him to play with us all the time."

Andy Murray, the world No 4 tennis player who has reached two grand slam finals in the past two years, is joined on the ATP Tour by elder brother Jamie, a Wimbledon mixed doubles champion.

The younger Murray shares al Musharrekh's sentiments and certainly knows what he believes pushed him - the weaker, more temperamental of the two siblings - to the upper echelons of the tennis rankings.

"Right from the moment we started playing tennis, we had this incredible rivalry," Andy Murray told The Independent in 2006. "There was a court about two minutes from our home in Dunblane [Scotland] and we would play there regularly. He beat me every time. Then he would brag about it all week, which used to drive me crazy.

"He was bigger and stronger than me, but I just worked and worked and pushed myself. All the time my dream was to beat him, and that has just made me more competitive."

In cricket, courtesy of sledging, the opportunity to verbally - and legally - antagonise an opponent is almost unrivalled.

Ian and Greg Chappell, Australian siblings who would both go on to captain their country, were renowned for their slanging matches on the field, even during Test matches. They had grown up together playing fiercely fought games in their back garden with younger brother Trevor also getting involved, and it was a trait that never left the trio. Trevor also grew up to represent his country at national level.

Evidently, rivalry undoubtedly plays a part in motivating some siblings to excel, but not all relationships revolve around fierce familial competition.

The Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, were brought up in a loving, religious family and the two continue to express their emotion and strong family ties on court.

"The Bible talks of two kinds of jealousy, a good jealousy and a bad jealousy," said Serena last year, when talking to The Sunday Times.

"I think I had a healthy jealousy of Venus. I wanted what she had, but I didn't want to take it away from her. I just wanted to work hard to reach the place she had reached."

Serena achieved her goal and has since won 13 grand slams in women's singles, while combining with sister Venus - herself a seven-time major winner - to collect 12 grand slam titles in women's doubles.

The understanding the two share on court, at times, appears telepathic.

Few other sports allow such internal understanding to flourish. For instance, the Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, may hold several world boxing championship belts, but one can do little for the other if he meets his match in the ring, as Vitali did in 2003 when he suffered only the second defeat of his career, to Lennox Lewis.

And so far the brothers have refused to fight each other.

Likewise in American football where Peyton Manning, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Indianapolis Colts, could in 2008 do nothing but applaud as he sat in the stands watching little brother Eli collect the MVP award for the New York Giants in their Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots.

Naturally, there will almost always be one sibling whose success appears relatively minor when compared to his relative.

Ralf Schumacher, the German former Formula One driver who made 180 starts on motorsport's grandest stage and finished fastest on the Sunday six times, pales in comparison when juxtaposed against brother Michael, a seven-time world champion and widely recognised as the greatest F1 driver of all time.

Meanwhile, Bobby Pacquiao, the 29-year-old southpaw boxer from General Santos City in the Philippines, has fought at Madison Square Garden in New York as well as lavish venues in Las Vegas, yet it is not him that sports fans think of when they hear his surname.

Brother Manny is a seven-division world champion and recognised by many as the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. There is very little Bobby could do that would make him the dominant sibling when it comes to name recognition.

Unlike Bobby, who has at times shown frustration at having an inferior profile, some sportsmen are glad to be given an opportunity to make a decision that will differentiate their career paths from their brother's.

Phil Neville, having struggled to hold down a position in Manchester United's midfield as brother Gary secured the right-back slot for himself, decided his career would benefit from a transfer.

Phil joined Everton where he later became captain; Gary remained at United where he later became captain. Both Nevilles continue to play today, some 16 years after Phil joined his brother for the first time in the United line-up.

The Nevilles are probably the most high profile footballing brothers of the past two decades, but it seems when it comes to having pairs of brothers on the books at Manchester United it is a trait that is embedded in the club's genes.

The Nevilles are already well on their way to being eclipsed at Old Trafford by the Brazilian duo of Rafael and Fabio Da Silva, and the Evans brothers, Jonny and Corry, are not far behind.

Yet were it not for the fact United's finances would not stretch to a bid in the early 1960s, all three sets of brothers would have been joined in the annals of United family history by possibly the most famous pair of footballing siblings in England history.

Bobby Charlton, the United midfielder, came close to being joined in Manchester by his elder brother Jack, but a fee could not be agreed and they had to wait until England's victorious 1966 World Cup campaign before lifting a trophy together.