You would think winning 15 Grand Slam titles, 93 ATP tournament titles, finishing #1 in the world a record nine times, and earning nearly $22 million in prize money, they’d have nothing left to prove. When Bob and Mike Bryan open play however, in the Delray Beach Open by The Venetian Las Vegas Tournament starting February 19th, they will be determined to take the title. Though they have won this South Florida tournament twice, they failed to even get out of the quarterfinals the last time the played in this tournament in 2012. Moreover, they were just defeated in the final of the US National Indoor Tennis Championships in Memphis, a title they won last year. Motivation, as well as unease, may be at an all time high.
These feelings of urgency and angst have two different points of origin. When Bob and Mike were interviewed last year at Wimbledon en route to another Grand Slam men’s doubles title, they admitted teams are gunning to knock them off their perch at #1. They also understand they may not have too many more years left competing at the top of their game. Both are accomplished mixed doubles players as well, yet have both agreed to play less in order to focus on their number one priority. “We’re 35 years old,” said Bob. “We know we only maybe have three or four more cracks at (major titles like) Wimbledon.” It’s only natural that an older elite player, still at the top of their game, will experience a pressing sense of perseverance.
They are the only doubles team in tennis history to ever hold four major titles, and the Olympic Gold medal, all at the same time. Bob, the slightly taller lefty, patrols the deuce side of the court. Mike is right-handed and plays the ad side, giving them both forehands up the middle on most points. Both of them, originally from California, are Sunshine State transplants. Bob will have the shorter drive to Delray Beach from his Sunny Isles home near Miami, while Mike will need three-plus hours to cross Alligator Alley coming from Wesley Chapel which is just outside of Tampa. As befits #1 seeded teams, they receive a bye in the first round in the 16 team doubles draw.
Despite some unkind words about the state of men’s tennis doubles recently by legend John McEnroe, the Bryan Brothers also plan to bring their chest bump to a match against John and his brother Patrick in an exhibition at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 3. McEnroe told the Daily Telegraph that doubles may need to be abolished because of lagging interest and prize money. “Most doubles players, I hate to say, are the slow guys who were not quick enough to play singles,” said McEnroe.
Despite those comments, the Bryan Brother siblings say their footwork, communication and teamwork remain at a high level. “We know where each other will hit the ball,” Mike said at Wimbledon. “We know where to fill the middle.” Don’t be surprised if the Bryan Brothers put John McEnroe and his brother in their place next month. The Bryans remain far and away the most popular of tennis doubles team as voted by fans in the past decade-plus, and hope to land the $26,100 doubles winners prize money on the line on national television in Delray Beach.
Steve Boyer is a USPTA Certified tennis instructor with MyTennisLessons from Palm Beach Gardens, FL. After 30 years working in local television he is also excited to share his perspective on local and professional tennis in South Florida. Sign up for tennis lessons with Steve today.