No. 1 twins talk tennis
July 27, 2003
Identical twins Bob (left) and Mike Bryan, 25, of Camarillo are the No. 1 ranked doubles team in the world. They have 12 career doubles titles, the most by brothers in the Open era. They captured their first Grand Slam title at the French Open in June.
Returning from a 13-week European tour that included their first Grand Slam title at the French Open, Star correspondent Rhiannon Potkey caught up with Camarillo's Mike and Bob Bryan, the No. 1 doubles team in the world, at their Spanish Hills residence and on the courts last week to discuss their tournament triumphs, the future and a variety of other topics.
S: Mike how is the rib injury you suffered during mixed doubles at Wimbledon?
M: It's starting to feel better. I wear a brace and put hot cream on it. I think it is just a stomach muscle pull in the left oblique. It used to hurt when I twist, but it is not that bad anymore.
Now that you have had a little time to reflect on your first Grand Slam title, how does it feel to be French Open champions?
B: It makes your life a lot more rosy.
M: It is just a dream come true. We worked every day for a Grand Slam slaving at Cabrillo (Racquet Club) since we were 6 just to get that and to be No. 1 in the world. You never know if you're going to do it, then all of sudden it happens and it is just, 'Wow. I don't' really believe it has happened.' Now it's starting to sink in and it feels really good.
B: It makes everything less stressful. On the court, if you are having a bad workout, before you were like 'Shoot, this is a bad workout and we are not going to win a Slam, now you just laugh.
You used to say that you wanted the first title to be the U.S. Open or Wimbledon. Does that matter now?
M: It doesn't matter. All four are the same. The Australian may be a little below, but the French, Wimbledon and the U.S. are pretty much at same level. Obviously, winning the U.S. Open being American would be unbelievable.
How has the reaction been from other players and fans?
M: The reaction has been great. When we were walking into Queens (Queens Club in England), everyone we saw came up to us and said congratulations and that they were happy for us.
B: We got so many e-mails from friends and family. They are still coming in as we clean out the box. We walked down the street in Paris and people were coming up and saying they saw the match. We went through airport, and people outside tennis that really didn't know who we were or care now recognized us. The greatest example was Queens. They are really strict with grass courts and we arrived at six at night. It was really dark. The courts close at 5 and no one can practice after that. But the tournament director came out and said they were cranking out the nets for us and to stay as long as we wanted.
Bob Bryan - "We want to peak for the (U.S.) Open, so if have a few good Masters Series we are going to do what we did at the French and just take the week before off."
Karen Quincy Loberg / Star staff
Mike Bryan - "It is just a dream come true. We worked every day for a Grand Slam slaving at Cabrillo (Racquet Club) since we were 6 just to get that and to be No. 1 in the world."
Before the French, you made a coaching switch, letting go of Craig Edwards and bringing aboard Phillip Farmer. Why did you feel the need to do that?
B: Craig did good job, but we just wanted to spark something, and it obviously was a spark. We were really enthusiastic about a new coach and it showed in our game. We went out there a little more fresh mentally. Everything was just more fresh and exciting.
Is the move a permanent one?
M: Yeah, he is full time. We can't fire him after the French Open.
B: We think we like him. We talked with our parents, and he is a good coach and works very hard. He is able to warm me up before matches. He is an extra hitting partner, which is good. He likes to work hard in the gym with us, and is a smart guy who is addicted to the courts. He stays out there and watches all the matches and knows everything about the opponents we play.
Does a day pass yet when you aren't reminded of the French victory?
M: I wake up every day think about it a little bit.
B: You wake up with a little smirk on your face. It takes the pressure off. After everything goes on in your career, you will always have that. You can enjoy life a little more. When you do something you are not thinking 'Is this going to hurt my Grand Slam chances?' Now we just go in there and relax a little bit. I think it will help in the future and I think we will win more now.
M: I think we can win one or two a year for the next five years. I would like to get one of each -- that would be cool. We'll get Woodbridge out of there, he has won eight.
With the first Grand Slam out of the way, what are the goals now?
M: We want to finish the year No. 1 individually and as a team and to keep that for rest of the year. We have the U.S. Open and a few Master Series tournaments left that would be nice to win. And then make the Olympics next year and play Davis Cup.
Speaking of Davis Cup, captain Patrick McEnroe told The Star right after the French that it would take something drastic happening not to pick you for the team. What are your thoughts about that?
M: When we were winning the French, we really didn't think about that. We were just stoked to win. Pat watched every match except the final. He said 'You are looking good for Davis Cup.' He knows we want to play. After we won, he said something like 'That one counts,' but we just wanted him to say congratulations. We don't want to have every match we play ride on Davis Cup. Now that we have won a Grand Slam, he said we had to do that to play. I don't think there is any more we can do. If he asks we are going to play. We always want to play.
B: It would be kind of nice if he would help me out with some singles wild cards. He is always saying we need to improve in singles play. If he is going to use us ,then throw me a bone and get me a U.S. Open wild card or something.
Because your agency, SFX, sponsors the Legg Mason Classic in Washington, D.C., you will not be able to participate in the Mercedes-Benz Cup July 28-Aug. 3 at UCLA this year. What are your feelings about skipping that event?
B: We are disappointed that Washington is going up against L.A. The Mercedes is one of our favorite tournaments because we love seeing everyone locally that only get to see us play like once or twice a year. But SFX does great a job with us, so we kind of have to do it. There was nothing we could about it.
You have often been described by other players and officials on tour as ambassadors of the sport because of all the exhibitions and clinics you take part in. Why do you feel it is so important to give back to the sport?
M: The game has done so much for us and we've made a living out of the game. If we can't give back, it is pretty selfish. We love kids and love helping them out. My dad has been big factor in it, too. He does so much for game and I think he has rubbed off on us a little bit.
B: When we were little kids, we were inspired by these guys, too. It's the reason we became so excited about game. When professionals would come up to us and just say hi or be nice we would just be flipping out. If I can take five seconds out of my day to sign an autograph for a little kid or ask him a question, that is the least I could do to help tennis in general.
Karen Quincy Loberg / Star staff
The fan interest in watching doubles action has been on a steady decline on the tour. What do you think needs to be done to improve that?
M: Marketing, I think. You need to get the names out there. Knowles and Nestor were No. 1 last year, and fans don't come watch them because they don't know who they are. If the tournaments would put names in the programs or throw doubles on TV a few times, I think it would make a difference. They put us on at the French Open, and when we came back to the states everyone knew us. We couldn't even walk around because people kept saying they saw us on TV and saying congrats.
B: One match on National TV on NBC and now probably 100 times as many people know us. That was just one match. Just imagine if they put the names in programs or maybe put the doubles draw up in front of tournaments.
How about the push to get more reputable singles players in the doubles draws?
M: It helps doubles a little bit. When people see Agassi in the doubles draw, it's obviously going to attract a crowd. It also makes it interesting with two guys staying back hitting groundies at two doubles players coming to the net. It provides a little variety. I didn't want them to change singles entry rules, but it actually is helping doubles a little. If we are getting bigger crowds, than it is good I guess. When they cut prize money, that was a little rough because they could have taken it from other areas not just doubles. That is going to hurt the game a little bit. If you are a little kid who likes doubles, only 20 guys in world can make a living playing doubles, so you will probably want to play golf.
The ATP has been talking with Grand Slam officials about increasing prize money and other financial issues. There has even been talk of a possible boycott. How involved have you been in the situation?
B: We know about it, but we haven't really gotten into it with the guys. A lot of the guys are really into it and talking about it every day, but we kind of stay out of it. We've signed a few things saying we will be on the ATP side if they want to play a different tournament instead of a Grand Slam. But our agent came up to us and said that was in violation of our clothing and racket contract, so we kind of got off of that.
Do you have any opinions on the subject?
B: The Grand Slams are making huge profits, and if you look at the other sports, the players are getting bigger chunks of cash.
M: In baseball, the players get 65 or 70 percent where in tennis, the players only get nine or seven percent of the gross income of the Grand Slams. That needs to change somehow to help the sport.
Now that you have been on tour for six years, what is the best part of being a professional tennis player?
M: It beats an office job. It's one of the best living you could have. You are traveling the world, and we like every tourney out there. Every city is beautiful and they put you in nice hotels. All our friends are out there with us, so it's kind of like a fraternity of guys. On the court it's cutthroat, but after the match it is cool and we just hang out with them and go to dinner.
What is the worst part?
B: We just hate the losing. We have learned to handle that better and better, though. In juniors it was the end of world. In college, you are bummed. On the tour, it's still hard, but we've learned to deal with it because you are playing so many matches you can't let it bother you that much.
Your European swing had you on the road for 13 straight weeks? How tough is it to complete a schedule like that year in and year out?
B: We definitely don't like being in Europe 13 straight weeks. But we also see that we have a short career, so we have got to do it while we're young because this is our only opportunity. We would obviously prefer if there was season like baseball has and we could play more tourney in the U.S.
M: We could have come back from Europe. We had the opportunity to, but stayed over there. It was a little bit of gamble because we knew we would be exhausted by the end. But on the other hand, we didn't get jet lag or have to readjust with the balls and surfaces. We played better. We were a little mentally drained at the very end, but I think it paid off.
What improvements do you feel you have to make in your games?
M: We can improve a lot of things. I can try to stay healthy a little more, and my serve can always improve. Its gotten better, but could add a few more MPHs and location.
B: I could do better sticking volleys and sticking second serves. We have played perfect at one time or another, we just need to get more consistent and do it every week. There have been matches where we said that is how we want to play. Clemente and Escude was one of those. There have been a couple model matches, but we just need to have more of those and do it week in and week out.
M: We are doing better, but we are just perfectionists. We have played more perfect matches this year than last year. Last year we had 2 or 3 where beat a team 0-1, 0-2, this year we've had 10-15 where we just blitzed a team.
How long do you foresee yourselves playing on the tour?
B: I plan on going until 32 or 33.
M: Bob feels a lot different than me. I'm just happy every week I get out there. My left hip is bone on bone and my knee, my wrist have given me trouble. Bob never has been to the trainer, never stretched. He is gumby. I work more in the gym on my body than on the court.
B: I put in twice as much time on court than Mike. He is using an extra two to three hours a day in the gym
Mike, do you plan on trying to play any more singles?
M: If I go hard I can play 2 singles matches, but by the third day I will be stiff.
B: He has tried a few times this year, and we have no chance at doubles because he is just too stiff.
Music has always been a big part of your life. What is the latest on that front?
M: We played a gig at Wimbledon, our second annual gig on the middle Saturday. We played in a bar and a lot players came. CNN and USA Today were there. Anyone who wanted to come up and a sing a song could. The guys from the Buddy Holly play came and we played for about two hours. We are going to play a few gigs in D.C.
B: We still play a lot on the road. We will download songs at night and learn songs.
M: I started playing the guitar about a 1 1/2 ago because my wrist was killing me, and I couldn't play the drums.
With Pete Sampras pretty much in retirement with a family, and Agassi expecting his second child, have you thought at all about your personal life or when you will settle down?
B: In the near future for me, tennis is the first priority. I just want to focus on the career and stuff like that. I definitely make time for my personal life, but I want to get business done first and then spend the time with the other stuff.
M: I want to definitely play. I don't want to be settling down in the prime of my career. Maybe think about marriage after 4 or 5 years. A lot of guys do it while they are playing, but it is hard. You are playing 13 straight weeks out of the year, and that is not the kind of life you want to have with a family.
How much of an advantage is it to be twins?
B: It is definitely fun. You don't feel the same when you are separated. You always want to stay in contact. Even later in life we want to live near each other. That is just the way it is because we are so close. Beneficial on the court because we know each other so well and communicate well. When we get our stuff done, it is like magic sometimes. But it is also a disadvantage because sometimes we bring the brotherly crap onto the court. Say I take the shirt he wants to wear for the match, and we argue about that onto stadium court one night. That is not good. It's not as professional as it could be, but it's also got some serious advantages.
What do you think about the Web site -- www.bobandmike.com -- created by a group of girls from around the world called the Doublemint Crew that has been dedicated to you?
B: Looked at it quite a bit the last month. Amazing how they update it every day. Reading some of the fan encounters makes you feel like a superstar, but it is just a couple of teenage girls out there. They come to our matches and bring a banner and give us gummy bears every week and take a picture after every practice we do. We have talked to them, and they are nice girls.
Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde have 61 doubles titles as a team. After breaking the Gullikson's record for titles by a team of brothers in the Open era, are there any plans to go after the Woodie's record?
M: We are not going for that many titles. We are on pace if we play for another ten years, but I don't even want to think about 61 titles when we only have 12. I don't that is feasible. I don't think we could ever catch that unless we start winning every tournament and just dominating.
B: I'd like to get 35 or 40.
How did it feel to break the Gullikson's record since they have been such an inspiration in your career?
M: You never even know if you are going to get that. Obviously we were confident we would do it sometime in our career. It's great to do. They have been really great to us.
B: Tim's family came up to me in Cape Cod and thanked us for remembering Tim and writing his name on our shoe and grip. We have a lot of respect for them, and they helped us out a lot when we were little and gave us some pointers.
After Legg Mason, you are scheduled to play in Montreal, Cincinnati and Long Island before the U.S. Open. What are you plans for that stretch?
B: We want to peak for the Open, so if have a few good Masters Series we are going to do what we did at the French and just take the week before off. That was key for us there that we took a week off. We went to the French, got fresh and strong and lifted weights.
M: We got into a good routine there. Practice in morning, doing weights, practice in the afternoon. We got used to the courts, they were a little different speed, got used to that balls that were a little more heavy.
B: We weren't wasting energy by walking around and shopping. We were just sitting around and resting.
What is the first thing you do when you arrive back in Camarillo?
M: We drop our bags in the garage and leave them there.
B: We don't unpack the bags for like two weeks. The first thing we do is go right to the music room upstairs.
M: We have to eat at Eggs N Things in the morning and then Somis Market for lunch. The rest of the time we just go to the pool or the beach. We don't like to do much. Just sit our butts and be lazy.
During the French Open, you ate Mexican omelets and croissants every day for breakfast and dined at the same Chinese restaurant for dinner. Any ideas for the U.S. Open (Aug. 25-Sept. 7)?
B: Room service. When you come home from long day it is the easiest way. It might cost twice as much, but it is worth it on a long day.
M: We always eat right. We have pasta and chicken before matches.
B: We've ever been into sodas or candy.
M: We will find a place in New York and stick to it. Some deli or something.