Bryan twins bump it up a notch
Flashy doubles team a big hit at Shriver's charity exhibition
By Sandra McKee
December 7, 2006
It came in the last game of the set - the Bryan brothers' famed chest bump.
It came after a point in which each brother had made a terrific play. Bob made the first, keeping the ball in play with an amazing backward backhand on what looked like a winner. Mike made the next, splitting Mardy Fish and Robby Ginepri with a winning, driving volley deep into the middle of the court.
Mike looked at Bob, and Bob at Mike. Smiles burst out. A hand slap. And then, the leap into the air for the bump.
The crowd of more than 5,000 at 1st Mariner Arena for Pam Shriver's Mercantile Tennis Challenge laughed and applauded in appreciation.
"They're good, really good," said Fish, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist, after he and Ginepri had lost, 8-4, in the pro set. "I played them in Los Angeles and you come off the court not believing how you lost. ... I mean, we'd played well, but you just say, 'God, they're really good.' "
Ginepri was equally enamored, admitting he even likes watching them practice.
"They do all these quick drills with their hands that are amazing," he said. "They just always know what the other is going to do."
Last night, it showed as the twins displayed their versatility. In some games it was all about positioning. In others it was about hitting harder than the other guys. In others it was about simply making one more play.
And some of it happened so fast it was hard to see the ball - like on the third point of the first game. Ginepri hit a slow-moving, high return that appeared headed deep into the service box or the backcourt, but the ball suddenly came back at him at the speed of sound when Mike Bryan cut it off at the net with a leaping slam-dunk.
"I thought it was great tennis by all four of us," Bob Bryan said.
"I hope the fans had a great time," Mike said. "Pam did a great job putting this event together."
"And we look forward to coming back and doing this again," Bob said.
This is the 21st year of the event that raises money for children's charities in Baltimore. It has raised more than $4 million over the years, and last night a check for $225,000 was presented to the Baltimore Community Foundation for distribution.
The evening began with Fish, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist in singles, and Ginepri, a rising American currently in the top 50, playing an eight-game pro set in the Northrop Grumman Legends Match that Fish won, 8-6, with a break in the last game.
The pro set is won by the player who wins eight games. If the score is tied 8-8, the set is decided by a tiebreaker.
In the Orioles Challenge, Martina Navratilova teamed with her U.S. Open-winning doubles partner, Bob Bryan, to beat Lindsay Davenport and Mike Bryan, 6-4. Afterward, each Bryan brother teamed for one game with Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts against Navratilova and Davenport - the score is unimportant, but Mike Bryan caused a stir by hitting a ball into Navratilova's chest. After a sincere apology, play continued.
Navratilova, who retired after she and Bob won the U.S. Open mixed doubles title in September, said she is having a wonderful time playing in celebrity and charity matches now that the pro pressure is off.
A night like last night, she said, is especially fun when it allows her to play with and against the Bryans.
"They're just so great," Navratilova said. "They're such boys on the court, they make me laugh."
And they leave their opponents happy, too.
"It's fun playing them no matter what," Ginepri said. "No one else is doing the chest bump."
Said Fish: "They're obviously a good team. But now, let's play them in singles and see what happens."
• NOTE // At the end of the evening, host Shriver presented Navratilova with a birthday cake and champagne in honor of her 50th birthday, and the crowd sang "Happy Birthday."