Monday, July 11, 2011

Bryan brothers fulfill father's dream

   Long before Bob and Mike Bryan were born on April 29, 1978 -- exactly eight years after their biggest idol, Andre Agassi -- their father had two goals.
   "My high school annual had a thing called 'senior prophecies,' said Sacramento Capitals coach Wayne Bryan, who graduated from Hawthorne High in the Los Angeles area. "In it, you predicted what you would be doing in 20 years. I said I'd be living in San Francisco and my son would be the No. 1 (tennis) player in the world. Had I known I'd have (identical) twins, I would have said the No. 1 doubles team in the world."
   Well, one out of two isn't bad. Bryan settled in Camarillo, between Los Angeles and Santa  Barbara, rather than San Francisco, where he had dated a girl in high school. Bob and Mike, meanwhile, have become not only the top men's doubles team in the world but arguably the greatest ever.
   The Bryan brothers will make their season debut for the Kansas City Explorers, the defending champions of World TeamTennis, against their father's team Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights.
   Bob and Mike Bryan recently won Wimbledon for their 11th Grand Slam men's doubles title, tying the Open era record of Australians Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde.
   "This is as special as it gets," Mike told reporters at Wimbledon. "I always thought we'd play our best at Wimbledon, and we've lost three heartbreaking finals. To get on that board again, to have two Wimbledon titles, is really special.
   "And then to equal the Woodies -- a team that we idolized, the greatest team in our mind -- is unbelievable. To get their (ATP World Tour) title record (the Bryans have 73 vs. the Aussies' 61) and get the Grand Slam record, I'm trying to figure out what's left."
  Two things come to mind. One is the all-time record of 12 Grand Slam men's doubles titles held by Australians John Newcombe and Tony Roche. The other is an Olympic gold medal. The closest the Bryans have come is a bronze in 2008 in Beijing. Their best, though probably not last, shot at gold will come in London next year, when they will be 34. Bob said at Wimbledon that he and Mike anticipate playing "five or six more years."
   Bob and Mike seem genetically engineered to be the perfect doubles team. In addition to having played with each other all their lives, they're big (Bob is listed at 6-foot-4, 202 pounds and Mike at 6-3, 192), feature a right-hander (Mike) and left-hander (Bob), and comprise a big server (Bob) and a big returner (Mike).
   "I love size in a doubles team," Wayne Bryan said. "Bigger guys can eat up the court. And (Bob and Mike) have a lefty-righty situation. The best doubles teams in history have been lefty-righty: Newcombe-Roche, the Woodies, (John) McEnroe-(Peter) Fleming, (Rick) Leach-(Jim)  Pugh. ... You never serve into the sun. If there's a slight cross breeze, both balls are enhanced by the wind."
   The Capitals' Mark Knowles, formerly ranked No. 1 in men's doubles, said the Bryans are the best doubles team he has faced in his 20 years on the circuit.
  "They're more of a power team, but they also do the small things well," Knowles, 39, said at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in March. "They play very good strategic doubles, and they're in sync all the time. That's the key to doubles -- communication not only verbally but in movement and knowing where your partner is going to go, closing gaps and adjusting to your partner's movements. They do it better than anybody."
   Actually, Wayne Bryan said his main goal was for his sons "to love the great game of tennis, love music, do well in school and be good kids. But it had to be their goal, not mine. I just set the table."
   He apparently did a good job.
   Concerning Bob and Mike having played together from the beginning, tennis journalist and historian Bud Collins said in Indian Wells with a chuckle: "That's helpful. On the other hand, it might not be helpful. A lot of brothers hate each other. They have had battles between themselves. They readily admit that, but they found something they love, and they're lucky. Most people don't find something they love."
   Mike Bryan insisted he and Bob, both of whom play with their father in the Bryan Bros. Band, get along fine.
   "We walk in the house, we go into the music room, and we're jamming at night for a half hour," Mike said at Wimbledon. "First thing in the morning, I hear Bob on the piano, and I go down there, and I plug in my guitar. We have a blast together. We share the same DNA."
     

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