A Dozen Reasons to Double Your Appreciation For The Bryan Brothers
With a victory in the men’s doubles finals at Wimbledon on Saturday, decorated American tennis duo Bob and Mike Bryan would become the first team ever to hold all four Grand Slam championships and the Olympic gold medal at one time. The Bryans are also just one Grand Slam shy of tying Peter Sampras for second with 14 grand slam titles overall.
You may only know the Bryan twins as prodigious chest-bumpers (if at all), but the California natives are far more than just two mirror-image groundstrokers with a trademark celebration. (Though, they’re very much that, too.)
1. The brothers are always together. Like, always.
In August 2009, the Bryans said they could recall only three instances in their lives when they spent at least a week apart—and one of the separations was a trial of sorts. “I decided to come home for a week to get ready for the French Open, but Bob stayed [in Europe] with our coach,” Mike recalled. “I thought we needed it, so we could come back fresh to play together. But we were on the phone with each other the whole time, so you sort of say, ‘What’s the point?’”
2. Even being assigned separate dorm rooms at Stanford couldn’t keep them apart.
Bob decided he didn’t like the arrangement so he plopped a mattress onto the floor of Mike’s room and slept there for the year.
3. Of course, there are some differences between the two.
Bob likes water, Mike likes water with lemon; Bob eats Honey Smacks, Mike eats natural granola; Bob’s favorite actress is Kaley Cuoco while Mike prefers the classic Julia Roberts. Favorites aside, Bob’s more laid back and Mike’s more organized. Bob serves as the on-court leader.
“He used to copy my math homework, I used to copy his English homework,” Mike said. “He’s a little more artistic. He likes to do music recording and painting and stuff.” Bob brings a more powerful serve while Mike excels at returning. Plus Bob is one inch taller at 6′ 4″.
4. Bob and Mike are opposite handed. (Bob is the lefty.)
Their differing dominant hands enable them to achieve greater court coverage, although their major advantage is simply the familiarity that comes from having played together for so long. Roughly 3.5 in one-thousand births result in monozygotic identical twins; of those, approximately 21% result in one right-handed twin and one left-handed twin.
In other words, Bob and Mike were genetically predisposed to dominate.
5. Longtime music aficionados, they formed the Bryan Brothers Band featuring David Baron.
Think a suburban jazz-fusion wedding band comprised of local community college students who make a lot of tennis references in their lyircs. Watch them perform their own “Autograph” at the 2010 US Open with an assist from Novak Djokovic. They’re better at tennis than music.
6. To avoid having them become rivals at a young age, their parents forbid them from playing one another in singles tournaments.
“We just had one of them default to the other,” said mother Kathy Bryan. “They were fine with that. They completely accepted it.” If they met before the finals, they would alternate who would forfeit the match so one of them could advance. Otherwise, they brought home the winner and runner-up trophies.
7. They have each competed in doubles tournaments with others partners.
Bob paired with Liezel Huber to take the 2010 US Open mixed doubles title, while the team of Mike and Lisa Raymond (above) won the 2012 Wimbledon mixed doubles title and bronze medals at the 2012 Olympics.
Joked Huber of the experience: “[Bob] wants to chest bump, chest bump, chest bump. I’m like, no. Do it with your girlfriend; don’t chest bump me.”
Mike also won two men’s doubles titles with a different partner when Bob was unavailable.
8. To be sure, they do have separate significant others.
Bob is married, and his wife Michelle gave birth to their baby girl, Micaela, on January 31, 2012. Though the tot’s name is actually the middle name of Michelle’s grandmother, proud uncle Mike joked, “The name is a derivative of Mike, which is kind of cool. If I have a girl, I might now have to name her ‘Bobette’ or ‘Bobina’.”
9. Once upon a time they starred in this faux-DoubleMint Gum commercial for ESPN.
10. Their parents admitted that having kids wasn’t in their plans.
“We didn’t think we wanted children — we were athletes,” said father Wayne Bryan. “Begrudgingly, we were going to have one child, just to get the grandparents off our back.” When the doctor revealed the X-ray showed two backbones, Wayne said, “Kathy started bawling, and I mean sobbing.” When they came home, a neighbor had two scooters and two bottles of champagne waiting.
11. The brothers once held a clinic at a maximum security prison in San Quentin, California.
Always looking to promote the doubles game, they went for it despite the “no hostage policy,” meaning that if something happened to them there, the prison wouldn’t engage in any negotiations for their release. Bob said of the experience:
My hands were shaking as I hit the first few balls but as the time went by and we got to talk to the guys, I loosened up. I was blown away by the genuine enthusiasm these guys had for our sport. They would cheer, clap, and heckle their fellow inmates as they tried to take us on in doubles. I had a laugh when I heard a few of them had lost packs of “smokes” because of our 1st round US Open loss. Oops.
12. Though the brothers won the men’s doubles gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, they had to settle for bronze during their previous attempt in 2008.
That year they lost to Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland and his partner.
Alas, they sit on precipice of history. A legion of chest-bumping doubles admirers will have their backs.