Column: The Bryan Brothers dominate doubles
Originally Published: June 27, 2007 10:49 p.m.
(Editor's Note: Following is a Q-and-A session between Courier columnist Chris Howard and the doubles team of Mike and Bob Bryan - currently the No. 1-seeded men's doubles team at Wimbledon.)LONDON - This is where it all started.London, England ... Wimbledon ... the "Big W" ... the "grass court championship" ... Wimbledon Village ... Church and Somerset roads ... rain ... strawberriesj ... and the beginnings of the game we know as tennis.I recently did an interview with twins Mike and Bob Bryan - the No. 1-ranked doubles team in the world. The Bryan brothers are former NCAA doubles champions from Stanford, winners of all four majors in doubles and No. 5 on the all-time list with five championships (11 is tops by the Woodies). In all, they have 39 total titles, trying to better 61 - a record also owned by the Woodies.Both are great guys and promote the game on and off the court in a major way. Their father, Wayne, coached them until David MacPherson took over a couple years ago. Wayne is currently in charge of their public relations and he couldn't be a better ambassador for tennis, not to mention they all play together in their own band at tennis gigs all over the world.Q: What doubles formation do you use when serving and why?A: Mike - We always use the standard doubles formation and we always come in on first or second serves. Bob is 6-4 and I'm 6-3 1/2 and we don't play monster where one guy crouches down in the middle of the court. We both serve pretty big and can volley and move. We don't use "games" or formations. We don't think we need to.Bob - And by the way, all the top doubles teams serve and volley on first and second serves - Bjorkman/Mirnyi, Knowles/Nestor, Hanley/Ullyett, Santoro/Zimnjic, and Ram/Erlich. Some of the singles guys and clay courters will stay back on their second serve and many on their first serve, too. Most women's teams stay back on their serves. Lisa Raymond, Katrina Srebotnik, and Liesl Huber are a few of the gals that all come in on their serves. Martina Navratilova, who I won the U.S. Open Mixed with last September, always comes in on both serves which was great.Q: When receiving on the first serve, do you both pretty much always start at the baseline and move in on the return if it's decent, or ...?A: Bob - When returning we mix it up. Sometimes we are up and sometimes we are back. It depends on the surface and how good a server we are facing. We vary it from point to point and game to game. And on second serves we are pretty much always up.Q: Do you talk between points or give hand signals?A: Mike - We usually talk quickly between points. Sometimes we'll give signals and we probably signal a little bit more on our return game between the first and second serve.Bob - Some teams use signals and some just talk. We think there are a few teams that take way too much time talking between points and we feel the umpires should watch the clock closer.Mike - We really feel there should be a 25-second clock in tennis like there is in other sports. The clock starts after the last point finishes and if you go over 25 seconds a buzzer would go off. I think it would be good for the game just like the "challenge" has worked well for questioning line calls.Q: How did the chest bump thing get started?A: Bob - The Jensens (brothers) started the chest bump in tennis way back in the early '90s. We got it from them. We did it at Stanford and the crowds loved it. We had practiced it when we were little kids in the juniors, but really started using it at Stanford.Mike - Yeah, all our SAE Fraternity brothers that would come out in mass to our matches really egged us on to do it more and more. Luke and Murphy Jensen, I think got it from some other athletes in other sports, and we sort of brought it back again. Now lots of other sports are using it all the time ... especially football and somewhat in basketball.Q: The crowd loves the chest bump, but what about your opponents?Bob - We don't do it in our opponents' face or to bother them. They have usually turned away and are heading back to get in position for the next point. We just do it to celebrate a good point or good shot that we have.Mike - Yeah, we don't say "xome on" or pump our fists in our opponents face or anything like that.Bob - Yeah, we don't try to hassle our opponents. They are professionals out there just trying to do their job, too. We try to treat every team with respect. We've had very few hassles with other teams.Q: You're just around the corner from reaching the age of 30, how long do you think you can keep playing - barring injuries?A: Bob - Really if you look at doubles, the teams seem to reach their peak in their 30s. Right now Mark Knowles is 35, Daniel Nestor is 34, Jonas Bjorkman is 35 and they are still three of the very best doubles players in the world.Mike - Ricky Leach was still No. 60 in the world when he retired at 43 a couple years ago.Bob - He's still playing World Team Tennis for Newport Beach at age 45 or something.Q: How important is it for you both to win more doubles titles than any other team in the history of tennis?A: Bob - Of course that's what we'd like to do. But it will be tough. We'll have to stay on the roll that we have going. We are tied for fifth on the all-time list. We're at 39 and the Woodies have 61.Mike - If you do the math, that means we'd need to win 23 more doubles championships.Bob - If we average five titles a year for the next five years, that would do it.Mike: - But it will be very tough to break, plus we could get injured.Bob - And who knows, we may never win another title ... only time will tell.Mike - We have great respect for Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde. Based on their record, you have to say they were the best team of all time and they have set the bar very high. We tip our hat to them.Bob - They were very smart and talented doubles players.Q: How about with winning majors?A: Mike - We are fourth on the all time list with five and the Woodies are No. 1 with 11. Obviously, we'd have to win seven more and that's a lot of majors. We can do it, but like the other record, it will be very, very difficult.Bob - But it's nice to have those records out there to shoot for.Q: Either of you honing in on getting married?A: Bob - Not me for sure, but Mikey has been dating a girl steadily for the past couple of years.Mike - No plans for the immediate future. It's tough to be married and out on the pro tennis tour. You are never home and never in one place more than a week or two.Q: Would you rather win one major title, or six other titles in a year?A: Bob - Wow. Good question. If the Grand Slam was Wimbledon or the U.S. Open, I think I'd take the Slam. Otherwise, I'd take the six titles, cause we won all the Slams already.Mike - That's a tough question, but I think I'd take the Slam no matter what.Bob - But, Mike, would you trade our first half of this year? We've won Vegas, Miami, Houston, Monte Carlo and Hamburg ... say for the French?Mike - Yeah.Bob - Not me, especially since we won three Masters Series events that we've never won before, Miami, Monte Carlo and Hamburg!Q: What are your plans when your playing careers are over?A: Mike - I'm sure we'll be involved in tennis in some way. Not sure how yet. But we'd like to also continue to be involved with music too.Bob - Yes, who knows, we might play some senior tennis or coach or maybe even coach a college team. ... I agree with Mike that we would like to have more time for our music. We might even finish our degree at Stanford. And we'd both like to have kids for sure. My day always jokes that he hopes we have twins too, to see how tough it was.Bob - And I know we'll both continue with our charity work and helping kids.The Q-and-A ended with the following quote by Bob Bryan:"We'd like to thank our coach, David MacPherson, who has done a great job with us the past couple years," he said. "David really knows the game, he's a hard worker and an excellent scout of our opponents."(Chris Howard is a local USPTA tennis professional with more than 30 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)