the guys are in Sweden this week for the semis
Bryans looking to fill out trophy case at Davis Cup swapContent('firstHeader','applyHeader');By Douglas Robson, Special for USA TODAY
It's less than 24 hours before Bob and Mike Bryan are due to take off for the Davis Cup semifinal against Sweden this weekend, but the world's top doubles duo are on another mission: crisscrossing the state of Florida to catch their second Dave Matthews Band concert in two days.
Shortly after wrapping up another drenching workout to prepare for the matches in the port city of Gothenburg, the Bryans are road tripping from their home near Tampa to West Palm Beach to see Matthews perform.
"We're going to see them four times in two weeks," boasts Bob, who, along with Mike and Davis Cup teammate Andy Roddick, have forged a mutual-affection friendship with the group's tennis-nut violinist, Boyd Tinsley.
"We could pretty much walk out there and play the instruments if we wanted to," Bob says.
Few at the top of their profession manage to dovetail business and pleasure so seamlessly. And tennis players, much less doubles players, rarely are accorded that kind of entrée.
But by virtue of their winning ways and infectious personalities, the Bryans have become not only the go-to point for the U.S. Davis Cup team but important torchbearers for the sport, on and off the court. In typical Bryan carpe diem fashion, the inseparable twins are having a blast along the way and, of course, doing it together.
"It's a lot more fun to have someone to do it with — someone to play Scrabble with at night, joke with, battle with," explains Mike, who has spent most of his 29 years sharing space with Bob in one form or another, whether it be on the tennis court, as roommates at Stanford or hanging out in the three homes they own together today. "I think we're going to play as long as possible. It's a good gig, and we love it."
Just a few trophies missing
Since breaking onto the ATP Tour in 1998, the towering twosome from Camarillo, Calif., have developed into the best pair of genetically linked partners in doubles history. They have 41 career titles, long ago smashing Tim and Tom Gullikson's record of 10 ATP Tour victories, and are one of only three teams to have completed a career Grand Slam in the post-1968 Open era.
In 2007, the Bryans have enjoyed their most productive season, despite winning only one major at the Australian Open. The five-time Grand Slam champs have amassed a career-high eight titles and reached the final in 12 of 18 tournaments, compiling a 63-9 overall record. Following their quarterfinal finish at the U.S. Open, they sewed up the year-end No. 1 ranking for the fourth time in the last five years — with nearly three months of the season left.
The only other pair to finish No. 1 three consecutive seasons were Australians Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, who did so from 1995-97. The Woodies also hold Open era records for year-end No. 1 finishes (five) and titles (61). The Bryans are quickly closing in on their marks.
The only things missing from the trophy case they share are an Olympic medal and a Davis Cup title.
"Every Grand Slam's taken care of, and No. 1's taken care of," says righty Mike, who was born 2 minutes earlier than southpaw, Bob. "That's probably the last feather in the cap. All the great players have won Davis Cups. That would probably cement a great career, and we know that, and that's why we go hard every time we play, we put everything we have into that match."
Becoming the backbone for Cup team
It's no surprise that they have been outstanding in the nation-vs.-nation competition. The team format and wildly partisan crowds are the perfect fit for this energetic, upbeat duo that thrive when the stakes, and the volume, are highest.
"We usually play our best tennis because we like to play with a lot of energy," says Mike, "and we play our best tennis in Davis Cup because we jump around, we come out hot."
Since their Davis Cup debut in 2003, the Bryans have dropped one match in 12 ties, which puts them on pace to equal or better the modern doubles standard set by John McEnroe and Peter Fleming, who went 14-1 from 1979-84. Six of the Bryans' wins came with the USA tied 1-1 after the first day of singles matches, and in each one of those cases the Americans went on to win.
"They have been the rock for us," says U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe, who hopes the Bryans and singles players Roddick and James Blake can snap the USA's 12-year title drought, its longest since the Davis Cup was founded in 1900.
In the best-of-five Davis Cup format, doubles gets its own dedicated day — the middle Saturday — and counts for 20% of the final result. But often it is the fulcrum on which Davis Cup success hinges.
Consider also that since the World Group format was introduced in 1981, only two of 26 teams have managed to clinch the final after losing the doubles point: France, which defeated Russia in 2002; and Spain, which beat the USA in 2004 when the Bryans nabbed the sole U.S. point in Seville on clay.
Whereas many countries must cobble together makeshift teams, the USA can rely on a formidable twosome that can win on any surface, even clay, which has been America's Achilles' heel.
"We can almost always count on them getting one on the board in Davis Cup," says No. 1 singles player Roddick. "They're the best team in the world without question, and that's nice to have on your side."
Efforts aren't limited to on-court skills
It's not just their on-court prowess, however, that has transformed the Bryans into the face of doubles.
Their high-fives, barks of encouragement and midair torso collisions — so-called "Bryan Bumps" — have made them hugely popular around the world. If doubles has currency on the public's consciousness, they deserve a big share of the credit.
"What's not to like about those guys?" Mary Cariilo, the TV commentator, has said. "They act like they're at their own 8th birthday party."
Rarely idle with their toe-hopping, chest-clanging on-court personas, the Bryans, who have each won more than $4 million in prize money, lead an equally hectic off-court existence.
They do tons of charity work, showing up at events such as Andre Agassi's annual gala in Las Vegas and brushing up against the likes of Elton John and Carlos Santana. In the short offseason, they barnstorm around the country playing exhibitions.
The Bryan Brothers Band — Mike on drums, Bob on keyboard and father, Wayne, playing lead guitar — is a frequent performer at charity gigs and tour stops. They have appeared on talk shows, show up at ESPY and MTV awards ceremonies and this year were featured in People
Magazine's annual "Sexiest Bachelor" issue.
Bob dated Joanna Garcia from the WB show Reba
for about 11/2 years in 2005-2006 and the Bryans are regulars at movie premiers in Los Angeles, not far from their $2 million, six-bedroom home complete with sand volleyball court and built-in music studio where they can hone their skills.
"We're trying to spread (doubles)" says Bob, who like Mike, is among the sport's most media-friendly ambassadors. "I think definitely, us winning Grand Slams has helped doubles. Now we have a little bit of a voice."
Their peers agree. "They do a great job of promoting doubles," says Swedish veteran and nine-time Grand Slam doubles winner Jonas Bjorkman, who will team with either 2007 U.S. Open doubles champ Simon Aspelin or Thomas Johansson for this weekend's Davis Cup contest.
Tennis fans, who often play more doubles than singles, are equally enthusiastic.
For instance, on a sizzling Monday afternoon last March at the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells, Calif., a long line of people laced around an outside court to catch a glimpse of the Bryans' first round match. The desert heat — it was at least 95 degrees — and already packed stands proved no deterrent.
"I arrived five hours earlier to make sure I got a seat," said Patti Irish, a 50-something year-old fan from Wenatchee, Wash.
Record books are within twins' sights
The Bryans grew up in sun-baked Southern California, the offspring of tennis nuts Wayne and Kathy Bryan. The twins inherited their animated nature directly from their equally kinetic father, a former teaching pro. Kathy was a highly ranked player in the USA and reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals in doubles. So avid a player is she that well into her pregnancy she continued to hit the courts. Wayne has often quipped that his boys were practicing before they were born.
In reality, the boys picked up rackets at age 6, pestering their father to play while he taught lessons. Soon they were dominating the junior circuit, success that bled into college, where Mike and Bob helped Stanford to several NCAA titles.
Even today, they seem fused, sharing nearly everything from homes to e-mail accounts to hotel rooms to the top ranking, which they have held for most of the last three years.
Girlfriends? Those are different. Bob has been dating a woman from Southern California the past few months, and Mike has a serious girlfriend, Jennifer Manna, he's dated for about three years.
"It's crunchtime," Bob says with a sly grin at his brother.
At 6-4 (Bob) and 6-3 (Mike), the net-hugging Americans are an imposing presence at the net. Their quick hands, size and athleticism allow them to take over matches from most opponents. But a key to their hegemony has been hard work, which has shored up Mike's serve and Bob's return.
That, along with a kind of tennis telepathy that comes from playing together since they were tots (they own more than 100 junior doubles titles), has put them on a collision course with the record books.
"As they've gotten better they've learned the game of doubles to cover the right spots, to enhance their talent," says four-time Grand Slam doubles champ Leander Paes of India.
That education will come in handy if they intend to fill the one gaping hole in their résumé on the lightning fast, indoor carpet chosen by Sweden for the Friday-Sunday tie at Gothenburg's Scandinavium arena. Should the Bryans & Co. prevail, as on paper they should, the Americans will play the winner of the other semifinal between Russia and Germany.
Either way, they'll find a way to mix work and fun, and have a good time doing it.
"They enjoy the pressure of it," McEnroe says. "They enjoy sort of putting that pressure on themselves. I mean, they just come out and they are just so focused and play so well, and obviously take a lot of pressure off of our singles guys in that they know come Saturday, we've got their best possible team we can have out there."