At this stage of their career, there are firsts that are few and far between for Bob and Mike Bryan. The Camarillo born and raised, 38-year-old identical twins, now residing in Hallandale Beach (Bob) and Wesley Chapel (Mike), Florida, have completely rewritten the tennis history books. They have set so many records that it is impossible to briefly summarize their incredible numbers. Going “barebones” (as it were) they have claimed 16 Grand Slam tournament doubles titles and 112 championships overall. They held the No. 1 ranking for 438 weeks – which is nearly eight and a half years – and they were the top doubles team in the world, feted at the International Tennis Federation Champions Dinner (held during Roland Garros) on ten different occasions. Adding to this surreal total, they also have a 2012 Olympic Gold Medal and a 2007 Davis Cup triumph in their Hall of Fame worthy trophy case.
Prior to turning professional in 1998, they led Stanford to the NCAA Team Championship. They also won the doubles title and Bob claimed the singles. Once they joined the tour, their mission was to make doubles relevant, and they have done just that, enjoying worldwide success on clay, grass, hard and indoor courts. In the process the duo has captured 37 different ATP tournaments in 33 different cities. (Greg Sharko, ATP Director, Media Information, PR & Marketing, provided these figures.)
Yet, in their global travels they had never played the Gerry Weber Open. The ATP 500 series event, which took place from June 13th until 19th, was staged in Halle, a small Westfalia city nestled in the German countryside.
Because tennis leaders agreed that the tournament schedule didn’t allow the men and women on both tours the necessary preparation leading up to Wimbledon, they increased the length of the grass court season. “With the extra week in the schedule, we wanted to get more creative in selecting tournaments to play,” Bob Bryan said. “We took the train from Paris to Stuttgart and from Stuttgart we came here on the train. We knew a little about it because our coach, David Macpherson (with whom they have worked since 2005), played here. We have been pleasantly surprised. The fans are great. They really know tennis.”
Mike continued, talking about the sports park/hotel/multi-purpose facility, where they stayed (which is on the grounds), “It is super convenient and there is no trouble finding practice courts. At Queen’s (the other ATP 500 tournament scheduled at the same time), it’s always packed. The Wimbledon qualifying is going on and practice courts are hard to find. Whenever there is any rain, the groundskeepers are always quick to get the players off the courts. Here they are more lenient and what’s better – some of the practice courts are covered. Because things are so close and easy to do, we almost have too much time…”
Tournament Director, Ralf Weber, the son of the tournament owner for whom the event is named, has sought to make the championships a festival for players and spectators alike. After the day’s tennis is finished, there are entertainment activities that include concerts on the ample stage that is in the plaza outside of and beside the center court.
The Bryans were impressed by the “Tennis-tainment” approach. They had adjoining hotel rooms with expansive windows that faced that area. Given their Bryan Bros Band music exploits, they enjoyed being close to what was taking place. “With our rooms, it was nice and simple,” Mike, said. “To be 38 and have to sleep in a bed near your brother, with a leg dropping on your head, is not something you look forward to doing. Here we had plenty of room. We left the windows open and could watch the tennis on the back courts and see what was happening when the music started. We even listened to a German Coldplay cover band called ‘Goldplay’ [They are from a small town near Münster.]. It was also great to be able to relax on your own bed instead of on the ground like we had to do at Queen’s when it rained.”
In the Gerry Weber Open semifinals, a contest that featured players with a total age of 143 years, the twins faced Raven Klaasen of South Africa and American, Rajeev Ram. Klassen and Ram slipped by the twins, scoring a 6-4, 7-6 victory. (The 2015 tournament winners went on to defeat Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Alexander Peya of Austria, 7-6, 6-2, in the doubles final. The champions began their “downing brothers” act edging Alexander and Mischa Zverev of Germany, 7-6, 4-6, 19-17 in the quarterfinals.)
Having played on the tour for nearly 20 years, Bob and Mike Bryan have been interviewed in varying circumstances by a variety of journalists. It would be safe to say that at the Gerry Weber Open they experienced a first (besides playing Halle for the first time). Christian and Sebastian Michel, non-identical twins who cover tennis for the Die Welt newspaper and are based in Köln, participated in the chat with the brothers. Naturally, sibling rivalry was a discussion topic. “I know what to say to set him off,” Mike admitted. “We had a moment in the Roland Garros (French Open) final. We went off and our play went down. Throughout our career, we have tried to stay professional. This is the most important thing – not to let sibling rivalry creep in.”
Bob continued, “At practice this week we had a ‘Ball War’ (Mike’s term). Balls were flying all over the place. We were trying to hit each other, and I know the players on the other courts looked over and said, ‘Oh, it’s the Bryans, they are going at it again’.”
At this stage of their ridiculously successful career, the “When are you going to retire?” question is regularly asked. Mike said, “We still have a lot to experience. There are things that we have done, but we would like to do them again.” Bob admitted, “No one wants to wimp out on their career. We really want to go out on top.”
Mike continued, “We keep pushing ourselves and we keep reevaluating, too. We want more.” Bob concluded, “Finishing No. 2 (Individually, at the end of 2015 Bob was No. 4 and Mike was No. 5) stung. We know that now we can’t walk on court anymore and hit a few serves and be ready to play great. There is a lot more involved now. We have to work really hard on the physical aspects in order to be able to play our best.”
Next year, the Gerry Weber Open will turn 25, and the Bryans plan to be on hand for the Silver Anniversary celebration. They agree that it would be a nice touch to see their name on the winner’s trophy, too.
“The town and the area remind me a lot of Ojai,” Mike said. “Being from Camarillo, we played the tournament all through the juniors and then when we were at Stanford. This tournament has a similar feel. It’s good to be in the countryside; to be away from the city – it’s hard to explain. You just have to be here.” Bob added, “Next year I would like to bring my wife and kids. (He has three.) They would love the area.”
Look for a fresh examination of tennis topics at “Mark’s Thoughts”