After 16 years on tour, the indomitable Bryan Brothers find themselves on the brink of a very special record.
If they win the US Open for the fifth time this fortnight they will become the first pairing in history to win 100 professional titles.
As tennis’ most recognisable doubles pairing, the Bryan brothers’ lengthy professional career has taken them to pretty much every continent on the globe.
Finding fresh challenges when you’ve amassed 15 Grand Slam titles, Olympic gold and the Davis Cup is admittedly tricky but the twins, 36, recently declared that they aim to defend their Olympic title at Rio 2016 and may continue playing until they’re 40.
Reaching 100 titles
“It’d be a great honour,” Bob told Al Jazeera.
“It has kind of come around pretty quickly. One minute we were trying to beat the Woodies (the great Australian doubles team of the 1990s – Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge who won 61 titles together) and then suddenly we’re almost at 100.”
When meeting the Bryans, it’s obvious that they’ve spent over three decades continuously in each other’s company.
They finish each their sentences with the metronomic regularity of an old married couple but they also quickly admit that they can be quite different, both on and off court.
“We have the same tastes because we grew up together and shared the same experiences,” Bob added. “But lefties are a little more right-brained and more artistic. I love recording and playing the piano, losing myself in creating music.”
Mike is quick to agree.
“I’m more of a numbers guy. I plan ahead. I’m a little more organised. His room looks like a bomb went off in there. When you have twins where one’s a righty and one’s a lefty, you get different dominant halves of your brain.”
But being twins isn’t always a benefit.
“We kind of share the same energy,” Mike says. “So we're positive together which is great if we’re rolling but then if one of us is feeling a bit down then both of us get down.”
Over the past decade, the doubles game has evolved considerably as organisers try to make it evermore fan-friendly. But even for the very best, these adjustments haven’t always been easy to deal with.
“It’s changed so much,” Mike says. “The biggest thing was when they started allowing the singles guys directly into doubles draw. That was scary. You’re suddenly playing against these guys with incredible ball-striking and returning ability and massive style clashes with guys staying back like Sock and Pospisil (the Wimbledon champions).
“Doubles is as good as it’s ever been thanks to that, but of all the doubles specialists you used to have, only the best have survived.”
The ‘Bryan bump’
College tennis is all about the energy and enthusiasm from the crowd. You’ve got drunk fraternity guys in the front row shouting your name
The pair is most known on the tour for their signature chest bump which they reel off on the North American hard-court swing.
But while it’s universally associated with them, they didn’t actually invent the move themselves.
“The Jensen brothers (Luke and Murphy – an American doubles pairing in the 90s) were the first guys that we saw doing it,” Mike revealed.
“They were at the height of their powers when we were in college. And college tennis is all about the energy and enthusiasm from the crowd. You’ve got drunk fraternity guys in the front row shouting your name.
“We did it in a doubles match and we actually made the cover of the Stanford Daily, our college newspaper. They called it the ‘Bryan Bump’ and then they kept calling out for it whenever we won a big point.”
However executing a chest bump perfectly isn’t quite as simple as it looks and both twins can remember a number of occasions where it hasn’t quite worked out.
“There was a time we got hurt in Miami,” Bob says, wincing at the memory. “We jumped up and Mike kind of grabbed me and I came down on his ankle and sprained the shit out of my ankle. I was on crutches for two days.”
There will undoubtedly be a huge gulf to fill when the Bryans eventually opt to hang up their rackets but with long-time rivals like Daniel Nestor still going at 42, they have no plans to do that anytime soon.
“We’ve been on tour with Nestor ever since we left college, about 16 years ago,” Mike said. “Whoever he plays with, he’s always one of the toughest guys out there. We’ve had some real battles, I think the head-to-head is 26 each.”
“We want to try and get the edge on him before we finish,’” Bob added. “But that could be a few years yet. We both love it too much.”
Source: Al Jazeera