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Bryan Twins Look to Double Their Pleasure in Another Grand Slam
by Elizabeth Schatz
Thursday, August 28, 2003
It is not easy to interview Mike and Bob Bryan.
The identical twins and doubles partners - distinguishable on the court because Bob is left-handed - stand at 6’3” (Mike) and 6’4” (Bob), making it more than tricky to pay attention to the words coming out of their mouths (with equal articulateness, having both attended Stanford for two years) and simultaneously look down at their players badges to figure out who’s who.
The Bryans have no sympathy for a befuddled reporter. They have too much to talk about.
Although they are playing in their ninth US Open, the 25-year-old twins from Camarillo, Calif., are undeniably in the midst of the best year of their careers. They have four titles so far in 2003, capped off with a French Open championship. They are seeded No. 2 at this year’s US Open.
But the biggest excitement came last week, when Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe named them to the team for the first time. They are only the second set of brothers to play on the same U.S. Davis Cup team, and the last pair, Robert and George Wrenn, played in 1903.
“We’re pumped up,” said Bob. “That was our big goal, to play Davis Cup for our country. Our most fun experiences have been on teams.”
“We had to win a grand slam to get noticed,” said Mike.
With a win today over fellow Americans Jan-Michael Gambill and Travis Parrott, the brothers are one step closer to another, and winning it in the US would just be icing on the cake. Not to mention a sweet deal for their fans, who are growing in number even without relentless marketing and show court appearances (although the Bryans do play in a band that often generates more buzz than their tennis, especially when Andy Roddick guest stars).
By 3:45pm today, the stands surrounding Court 4 – an out-of-the-way practice court for most of the day – were jammed with fans waiting for the 4:00 p.m. match.
One woman, well past her teeny-bopper years, was tugging at her husband’s sleeve, pleading, “I can’t miss the Bryans.”
“We’ve been here since three o'clock!” boasted another man in the bleachers.
Young boys crowded the front seats, a few with brothers by their sides.
The Gambill/Parrott team had their supporters as well, including Gambill’s younger brother, 21-year-old Torrey, who at one point in the second set called the twins “creatures, drones.” But despite Gambill’s wicked returns, the unseeded pair went down 6-4, 6-2. The Bryans utilize their twin sensibilities on the court, barely having to speak, knowing without fail what the other will do. And they usually give the crowd a token “Bryan bump,” leaping to crash bellies together after a big point, although today there was only knocking of knuckles.
“It gives us a little extra edge,” said Mike of being twins. “I know where Bob will hit the ball every time.” Waiting for a serve from their opponents, they even bounce from foot to foot in an uncanny rhythm, looking a bit like prancing show dogs. And as if on cue, their coach yelled to his charges, “Go get it, boys, go get it.”
The twins’ remarkable coverage of the court made Gambill and Parrott’s hard hitting a moot point.
“We’ve been playing Jan-Michael since we were 10 years old. But there’s a little extra fire playing in America. There’s a lot of energy,” said Mike.
With the next match still a day away, the brothers have another battle to fight. Specifically, who is going to get the master bedroom in the house they just bought in their hometown.
“It has a steam shower,” said one.
“It’s huge,” said the other.
But it isn’t time to go home yet. Especially now that they get recognized walking the grounds.
“They don’t get the exposure they deserve,” said Elyssa Goldberg, 23, a New York native who parked herself on the sideline with a friend after they noticed that the tan, baby-faced Bryans were “very good looking.” Mike would be happy to hear it, having complained, “We’re always attractive to the 13, 14 and 15-year-olds. We wish they were a little older.”
And the hotshots from the top of the draw are taking notice, too.
“We’re seeing the guys on tour more often. They’re giving us more respect,” said Bob. “And it’s not looking so scary anymore.”
So where was the Bryan bump today?
For once, an eerie twin-like simultaneous answer. “We’re saving it.”