12-23-2008, 02:59 AM
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Re: News, articles about the twins...
A duo that's doubly blessed
By Dave Scheiber
, Times Staff Writer
Published Monday, December 22, 2008 8:24 PM
They have played before countless crowds around the world, won each of tennis' crown jewel events for a career Grand Slam and are the first men's doubles team to rank No. 1 four times in a five-year span. But two months ago, 30-year-old identical twins Bob and Mike Bryan found themselves on a different kind of stage — and feeling more than a little nervous before the 25,000 spectators hanging on their every move. Of course, these moves had nothing to do with hitting winners on the hardcourts of the U.S. and Australian opens, the grass of Wimbledon or the clay of Roland Garros. They involved Bob serving up a keyboard solo and Mike taking a swing at acoustic rhythm guitar with a little solo of his own, while sitting in with the Counting Crows at the Ford Amphitheater in Tampa. "That was a dream come true," said Bob, sitting with Mike in the weight room at the Saddlebrook Resort, where they live and train part of each year. "It's something we've really dreamed about for a long time, playing on stage with an incredible band like that."
The Bryan brothers have been big fans of the band since the 1990s. They met Counting Crows drummer Jim Bogios last summer at Wimbledon and helped him get tickets to the men's singles final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
"I hit on the grass with him at the All England Club, and he wanted to repay us," Mike said.
They helped Bogios with tickets again at the U.S. Open, where they won the title a second time in September, and the drummer mentioned that they should plan to sit in with the band for a song on tour. Just in case, Bob learned the song Bogios suggested, Hanging Around, but as time passed, they forgot about it.
"I thought he was just throwing it out to be nice," Mike said. "But we were flying in to Tampa the night of their concert, and I get a text when we land that says, 'You guys are sitting in tonight. You're not getting out of it.' And I started getting nervous, thinking no way is this happening."
But their rock concert debut went off without a hitch — one more harmonic moment for a chart-topping tennis twosome doing a lot more these days than hanging around.
Doubles is traditionally overshadowed by the glitzier singles game and marquee names that put fans in the stands. But since establishing their dominance in 2003, the Bryans have done their part to enhance the profile of the pursuit — and they've given the United States a firm grip on doubles play in the process.
That was more evident than ever in December 2007 in Portland, Ore., at the 32nd annual Davis Cup. Bob, a left-hander who is 6-4, 200 pounds, and Mike, a right-hander who is 6-3, 192 pounds, employed their aggressive, attacking style to sweep Russia's Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Andreev.
Their 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 triumph clinched America's first Davis Cup crown in 12 years. It was their 13th doubles victory in 14 Davis Cup appearances, and the crowd of 13,000, along with a national television audience, saw the exuberant brothers complete the momentous win with their trademark chest bump.
"That was the peak of our career," Bob said. "It was a five-year process with ups and downs, being together with the same team (including Andy Roddick and Tampa's James Blake) the whole way through — and winning it in the U.S. was amazing."
"We'd dreamed of playing in Davis Cup since we were 10 years old," Mike added, "and every match we played felt like a Grand Slam final."
They know something about that. From 2005 to 2006, the Bryans competed in seven straight Grand Slam finals, an Open Era record. They've earned 49 ATP victories and an Olympic bronze. And though they slipped to No. 2 in the world in their final match of 2008, with Bob bothered by a lingering shoulder injury, they're looking for a return to the top when the 2009 campaign begins Jan. 19 at the Australian Open.
"We just want to get better every day, because every year the game gets better," Bob said. "We want to stay healthy and do this as long as possible, because it's a great gig."
• • •
There was little doubt that tennis would take hold with the twins, born prematurely at 4 pounds, 2 ounces in Camarillo, Calif. — Mike older by two minutes but Bob having the edge in length by 3 centimeters.
Their father, Wayne, a lawyer and performing musician, was the manager and pro at a local tennis club; their mother, Kathy, competed at Wimbledon four times, reached the mixed doubles quarterfinals in 1965 and taught at the same club as her husband.
The parents never pushed the boys to play. Instead, Wayne took them to college and pro tournaments to watch top players compete, and their passion for the sport evolved naturally.
"We developed idols, and we couldn't wait to play," Bob said.
When it came to lessons, the boys learned in a group rather than receive individual instruction. "We were always just running around with rackets in our hands, and my dad really made it fun for us," Mike said. "We had big group clinics every day, and we'd play games and never knew that we were working so hard. We played four hours a day since age 6. And being twins, we would just push each other."
As their skills developed, they would write down their goals and place them on the refrigerator, starting with winning trophies to qualifying for tournaments on the road to earning a college scholarship at Stanford.
Wayne and Kathy did have a few key rules for their children: doing well in school was a must; and reading took priority over television (in fact, they had no TV in the house). The boys would play tennis for four hours a day, eat dinner, then do homework for several more hours. "We were perfectionists; we never wanted to get B's in school, so we'd help each other out," Mike said.
One other rule: Bob and Mike were not allowed to play each other in the youth and junior tournaments. They took turns defaulting if they were to face each other, including about 30-40 times in the finals.
"As a result, we never really became competitive against each other on the court," Bob said. "We were supportive and became good friends and doubles partners. It would really have affected our psyches if one was dominating the other one. You never want to lose to your twin brother."
• • •
Bob became a standout junior and collegiate singles player, ranked No. 1 nationally, with Mike just a notch behind him. But there was never a doubt they would play doubles as pros.
"Getting to experience this with your twin brother is really special," Mike said. "We have our disagreements, but we're never jealous. It's always sharing — that's the bond we have."
They also have their own music act, the Bryan Brothers Band, with a full recording studio in their California home. They have to approve of each other's girlfriends. And they divide investments and prize money (more than $5-million over 10 years) equally.
But the Bryans discount any notion that being identical twins gives them some intuitive edge. Instead, they point to the thousands of hours they have worked and played together.
Says Hall of Famer Tony Trabert: "They're tall guys, and being a righty and lefty can be effective. But the other thing is that they're such good friends and they play so much together, they know what the other is going to do, or not do. That's very important."
Wayne has written a book on the parenting approach he and Kathy took titled Raising Your Child t
o be a Champion in Athletics, Arts and Academics. They couldn't be prouder of their sons.
"It's not what they've accomplished in tennis," he said. "I'm happy they've achieved all their goals, because they have. But what we're most proud of is the kind of people Mike and Bob are and how they treat other people. That's what counts most."
Whether counting wins, counting blessings or Counting Crows.
Dave Scheiber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8541.
Web site: www.bobandmike.com
Career doubles record:
49 (fourth most in the Open Era, behind Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde with 61, Peter Fleming and John McEnroe with 57 and Bob Hewitt and Frew McMillan with 57)
The Bryans are the first men's doubles team to rank No. 1 four times in five years (2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007) and were ranked No. 1 in 2008 until a loss in their final match of the season. Woodbridge and Woodforde also finished No. 1 four times (1992, 1995, 1996, 1997) in six years.
The top two 2008 men's doubles teams pair a left-hander (Daniel Nestor/Bob Bryan) and a right-hander while the other three are right-handers. About 20 percent of all identical twins have one right-hander and one left-hander. Nestor (with Mark Knowles in '02, '04 and Nenad Zimonjic in '08) or the Bryans have been No. 1 since 2002.
06-19-2009, 01:09 AM
Vamos Mandy :)
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Looking for Andy's forehand with Sarah and Re...
Re: News, articles about the twins...
Mike and Bob Bryan: 'I'm better than him – I kick his ass in practice'
The Brian Viner Interview: They're the fun-loving chest-bumping, show-stealing Californian twins who rule men's doubles – welcome to the parallel universe of the Bryan brothers
Wimbledon 2008 will be for ever remembered for the epic men's singles final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, although not by Mike and Bob Bryan, the 31-year-old twins from southern California who have been the world's top-ranked men's doubles pair for much of the past five years, and for a change found themselves on opposite sides of the net at the business end of a Grand Slam. Not that they could see each other too clearly as the mixed doubles final approached a conclusion.
"It was 9.20 and, like, pitch-black," says Mike. "But we all had plane tickets the next day and wanted to finish it."
"In the end no one could see a return," adds Bob. "It was, like, whiff city out there."
The mixed doubles title eventually went to Bob, and his Australian partner Samantha Stosur. But Mike still got half of Bob's winnings. "We made a vow a while ago that we would split everything equally from the mixed," explains Bob, "although I've calculated that I've won [he names a substantial six-figure sum] more than this guy."
"Don't put that on the record," says Mike.
"Why not?" says Bob, a glint in his eye. "All our money's together, it's one big mosh pit. I've contributed a little more to the pot, that's all. But we're at the stage where we maybe need to think about that. He's got a serious girlfriend now."
We are talking at Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire, home of a genteel grass-court tournament called the Boodles Challenge. But nobody ever associated gentility with southern Californians, and as white-suited men and high-heeled women clink Pimm's glasses on Stoke Park's immaculate lawns, it occurs to me that the Bryan brothers, whose signature mode of celebration is the ebullient chest bump, are just what the Boodles Challenge needs. "We picked it [the chest bump] up from the Jensen brothers actually," says Mike. "They played with so much energy, we idolised those guys. Then we came on tour and the older guys hated it, these two rookies bumping chests, not showing them respect."
It is a shame, I venture, that the Williams sisters have not picked up the habit. That could be a heck of a spectacle. "I played with Venus in the mixed at Wimbledon one year," says Bob, "and one time after we won a point she did come flying in to do a chest bump. I was quite scared, actually."
Chuckles all round. The Bryans are stimulating company, bright and funny despite being the nearest thing tennis has to a genetically engineered doubles pair. Their mother, the former Kathy Blake, was America's leading junior and became a top-30 singles player in the 1960s. Their father, Wayne, was also a professional player. And Wayne and Kathy owned and ran a tennis club, where from infancy their boys were immersed in the game. They won their first doubles competition aged six, but Wayne never allowed them to play each other in singles. When they were matched up in tournaments, they took it in turns to withdraw.
"It was a smart play," says Mike. "We both grew up dreaming of being No 1 in the world, but how are you going to do that if you're not even No 1 in your bedroom? It helped us to grow up motivated, because we both thought we were better, but nobody had the proof."
Bob had a better singles career, although never quite broke into the world's top 100. "I still think I'm better," says Mike, the elder by less than three minutes. "I still kick his ass every day in practice." Bob shoots him a withering look. "Do you?" he says.
Like Mike, Bob praises his father's motivational methods. "He was very smart at not just putting us on court and grinding us into the ground. He took us to college tournaments, to Indian Wells, to Agassi exhibitions. I first saw Agassi when I was nine or 10, just hitting the piss out of the ball, and I remember my parents saying, 'You've got to watch this guy, no one's ever hit the ball like this'. It was true, he revolutionised the power in the sport, but by the end of his career he wasn't hitting the ball nearly as big as everyone else. I played against him, actually, in one of my first pro matches, when I still had posters of him on my bedroom wall. He beat me, like, 6-4, 6-4, but I was proud of how I hung in there, and afterwards I told him how he was my idol growing up. He's kind of taken us under his wing. And there was one time he was on the Davis Cup team with us, which was cool."
The Bryans remain a vital ingredient in the United States Davis Cup team, no less than their more illustrious team-mates James Blake and Andy Roddick. "The Davis Cup is really the biggest stage doubles offers," says Bob. "It's pretty much the swing point of any Davis Cup tie."
In 2005 it seemed as though the Davis Cup might become the only big stage for doubles. ATP Tour officials tried to decree that players could only compete in the doubles if they were entered in the singles draw, which the Bryans, along with many other specialist pairs, considered a threat to their careers. They filed a lawsuit. "Pretty much every doubles player in the top 50 put their own money in, from a couple [of] hundred bucks to, like, $10,000," says Bob. "But we were lucky because the Tour then got a new CEO, Etienne de Villiers, a great guy, who knew that doubles was part of the show. The hard-core fan loves doubles. Of the guys who play recreational tennis, 90 per cent play doubles."
"Etienne became a good friend," adds Mike. "He took us to an Arsenal soccer game. It was the first soccer game we'd been to and it was a zero-zero tie. He was devastated."
De Villiers has now left his ATP role, but part of his legacy is the health of men's doubles. "It's at the best level it's ever been," says Mike. "There are big names on court, too. At Indian Wells this year we played Federer in the first round and Nadal in the second round. They don't have great doubles skills, but it's good to get the power of the groundies [the groundstroke specialists] versus finesse and quick hands at net."
Bob elaborates. "Doubles is a different sport almost," he says. "You've got to have poaching skills, and the return has to be more precise, you've got to hit it low at the guy's shoelaces. In singles you see Federer hit a big serve and the guy will just chip it back, but if you do that in a doubles game, the point's over. Also, you don't get too many young guys out there who can volley, because kids grow up banging from the baseline and volleying is a skill that takes a long time to develop. Doubles players get better with age. Leander Paes just won the French [Open, with Lukas Dlouhy] and he's 36."
Longevity also hones the communication skills doubles players need, and that the Bryans have almost by telepathy. "You never leave a hole down the middle in doubles, and we do that without even thinking," says Mike. "And we complement each other well. He's a lefty, with a huge serve, and I hit a pretty decent return."
Presumably, though, being twins can hinder as well as help? When's the last time they got furious with each other on court?
"Yesterday," says Bob.
"We have to be careful with our word selection on court," Mike adds, "but we button it up pretty well in the Davis Cup and the Grand Slams."
"What did I say yesterday?" Bob asks.
"You told me I sucked," Mike replies.
They smile together, as they have done everything together throughout their lives. After high school they went to Stanford University together, partly at the encouragement of a man who had graduated a year before them, Eldrick "Tiger" Woods. "Stanford had him recruit us to go," says Bob. "He, like, turned up at one of my matches in Michigan and said he'd love it if we went there. I remember asking him if he was going to turn pro, because there were rumours that Nike were going to give him $60m. And he said, 'I can't tell you,' nodding his head. The next week he was all over the news."
These days, the brothers share a house in their hometown of Camarillo, California. "But we train in Campbell, Florida," says Mike. "That's our residence right now. Put that in the paper. It will help for tax purposes."
Their contribution to the US Treasury, if hardly on a par with that of their fellow Stanford alumnus Woods, must still be substantial. Not since 2004 have they failed to win at least one Grand Slam title, and they estimate that their income combined is about that of a top 10 singles player, which makes them decidedly wealthy young men. Moreover, Bob's mixed doubles success has continued since Wimbledon last year; with Liezel Huber he won the French Open title earlier this month. But I suggest that for Britain's own Jamie Murray that must have stuck in the craw – wasn't Huber meant to be his partner?
"He didn't think he would get into the tournament because his ranking had dropped," claims Bob. "He was like, 'Liezel, you'd better go find someone else,' and one hour before the sign-in, she said to me, 'Let's go'."
If Murray is feeling hard done by, there was at least some revenge at British hands in the subsequent Ageon tournament at Queen's Club, when, amazingly, the Bryans were defeated in the first round by the little-known Colin Fleming, a Scot, and Ken Skupski, from Liverpool. Fleming and Skupski were respectively ranked 165 and 148 in men's doubles, but the Bryans, who enter Wimbledon next week as top seeds, expect those rankings to soar. "I expect them to be a real good pairing," says Mike. "They played well. And actually it wasn't so bad for us to take a loss and put our rackets down for four or five days."
When they put down their rackets they usually pick up instruments. Music is their great passion outside tennis, and they ask me to publicise the gig by The Bryan Brothers Band, in which Bob plays keyboard and Mike drums and guitar, a week tomorrow in Wimbledon village, nine until midnight. There seems to be some doubt about the venue, but they shouldn't be hard to find. They're tall, boisterous, and there are two of them, generally enjoying life. "We love London," says Mike. "Yeah, says Bob. "There's great food, great shopping, great TV, it's our second home."
05-16-2010, 10:22 PM
We know how it feels
Join Date: Aug 2006
Re: News, articles about the twins...
Bryan brothers' brilliance a fine advertisement for doubles
Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent
Many of us have endured that agonising moment when the Bryan twins are walking towards you and you desperately search for that minor idiosyncrasy that might enable you not to make a fool of yourself and call Bob "Mike" and Mike "Bob". The Net Post asked for a couple of pointers in terms of separating the pair yesterday as the Bryans celebrated the 61st tournament victory of their careers, to equal the Open Era record of the Australian Woodies, Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde.
Mike – I’m sure it was Mike – said: “Bob’s a little heavier than me, he’s grown his hair a bit longer, he’s uglier and I have a couple of moles on the side of my neck.” But you cannot always approach Mike from the proper side to be able to see them and then, of course, have to try to remember which of the brothers had the moles in the first place.
What is not difficult at all to distinguish is how brilliantly they play doubles, the telepathy they share than only twins can enjoy, which gives them a marked advantage and the relish they have for playing this game at their rarefied level at 32 years of age (they still look 22).
They opened 2010 with their eighth grand slam title, at the Australian Open and should they add the French in three weeks, obviously, the record will then be theirs. And what better place would there be to set such a landmark than at one of the sport’s four treasures? Already this year they have won in Delray Beach, Houston and Rome.
And they speak as well as they play, a constant source of mature opinion and fun mixed with a spontaneity which makes them engaging conversationalists. Though doubles tends to be greeted with indifference at many tournaments – the Williams sisters won the women’s doubles event here and the final was scheduled second on at night after a men’s singles – the Bryans have kept it cool and relevant, playing with an exuberance that shames younger pairings.
That was as true as ever when they defeated Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic, the defending champions and current No 1 pair in the world in the Mutua Madrilena Masters final in Madrid, 6-4, 6-3. Like Woodbridge and Woodforde, they are a left-right combination who seem to have been granted the advantage of eternal youth.
“That is definitely the best combination,” Bob Bryan said. “The sun out there today was really bad for a leftie, so we decided to put Mike on a different side. We can use winds to our advantage and the leftie serve is always tougher to break, I think. We feel like our game is pretty comfortable if I make first serves, and Mike is such a good returner he keeps us in other guys' service games.”
And they show no sign of letting up. “We’re still having fun. It never gets old or boring to be travelling the world with your brother,” Mike said. “We love winning the titles and sharing the trophies and the memories. We don’t want to say, ‘Now that we’ve done this or that, we’re going to retire next year.’ I don’t think we’d find this adrenalin sitting on the couch at home so we might as well soak it up while we can.
“Being twins does give us an advantage. We’ve played thousands of matches; there is a special bond and communication that most teams don’t have. The other side of the coin is that other players have seen us play hundreds of times, so it is a challenge for us to keep working on different things.”
We wondered whether they thought more of the top ten players might indulge some more in doubles. Rafael Nadal won the title in Indian Wells this year with Marc Lopez, Roger Federer helped Yves Allegro out in Rome earlier this month; Andy Murray occasionally partners Ross Hutchins but more often than not, they have other priorities.
“The doubles game is at its best right now,” Bob Bryan says. “You do have singles guys playing which is a contrast in styles and it is beautiful to see when they do. It gives the fans a different experience as well. We’ve played Roger seven times and Rafa four times, so they do come in and play. Then there are the specialists who offer something different again.”
That is certainly the case with the Bryan twins, whose infectious free-spirited performances have done so much to keep doubles in the public eye. Long may they keep chest-bumping their way around the world.
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