“The Bryans Rule”
An excerpt, printed with permission, from AMERICAN DOUBLES …the Trials …the Triumphs …the Domination by Marcia Frost. The book, published by Mansion Grove House, is available on Amazon.com, BN.com, and AmericanDoublesBook.net.
Kathy Bryan was playing a doubles match on her due date so her boys were literally born to play tennis when they made their appearance on April 29, 1978. Bob and Mike Bryan grew up in Camarillo, California, a small farm town that is known more for raising lemons and strawberries than tennis players. But Kathy and Wayne Bryan changed all that and instead reared the most famous twins in the tennis world.
In 2007, the Bryan Brothers earned the No. 1 place in the world for three consecutive years and for the fourth time in the past five years. The ITF, which bases the honor on a combination of performance and international competition (i.e. Davis Cup), named them their ITF World Doubles Champions for the fifth straight year. They earned 11 ATP titles in 2007 and, with a total of 44, they are getting close to breaking the all-time record by Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde (“the Woodies”) of 61 titles.
From January of 2005 to July of 2007, the “Boys,” as they are often known, made seven consecutive Grand Slam finals, the first team in the Open era to accomplish that. They completed the Career Grand Slam, becoming only the third doubles team — and first American team — to have won all four major titles in the Open Era (Jacco Eltingh & Paul Haarhuis and the Woodies are the other two).
While Wayne Bryan may have been coach to his boys when they were growing up, he is clear on who had the dreams, “It was not about my goals, it was really just about their goals. Kathy (their mother) and I did everything we could to help them along the path to their goals.” The boys did not watch television and they were not allowed to play against each other in a junior tournament. It was typical to see a “default” as the score when it was a Bryan-Bryan final. The junior tennis world just accepted that was the way it was.
Bob and Mike knew early on what it was they wanted to do. They wrote down their goals and they kept going back to them:
To be No. 1 in the U.S. in Doubles every year in the Juniors
They were No. 1 in the 12s, 14s and 18s (twice);
To get a full ride to Stanford and win the NCAA Team, Doubles and Singles Championship;
They played for Stanford from 1996-98. They led Stanford to the team championship both seasons and won the NCAA Doubles Championship in 1998. Bob also won the singles that year.
To be No. 1 in the World in Doubles;
They accomplished this for the first time in 2003.
To win all the Grand Slam Doubles titles;
They have won two Australian Opens, two French Opens, two Wimbledons and one U.S. Open Championship.
To be the Davis Cup Doubles Team for the U.S. and win the Davis Cup for the U.S.
They clinched the United State’s first Davis Cup final in 12 years on December 1, 2007.
Writing down the goals was an important part of the process, says Wayne, “We (their mother and I) feel you must see it before you can dream it and you must be passionate about it before you can achieve it. We felt it was very important that they knew the ‘real deal’ and all the thousands of steps it took to get up to the top of the mountain, and at the same time we always wanted them to have a smile on their face and learn the great lessons of life along the way and help other people on their journey…And we wanted to leave the tennis campsite cleaner than we found it.”
It is the bond between the two brothers that led them to both choose a doubles career even after Bob, who won the 1998 NCAA Singles Championship, had a good shot at a career in that event.
James Blake spoke a bit about the talent of the Twins at that [the 2007 Davis Cup final in Portland, Ore.], “We have so much fun watching them because we’re constantly in awe of how good their hands are, how well they move together, how great Mike’s returning, how close Bob gets to the net, how well they’re doing everything.”
It was a long road to Portland from when Mike and Bob went to the Davis Cup match in La Costa, California, when they were just 11 years old. As juniors they won 10 national junior doubles titles, including an unmatched five USTA National Clay Court Championships. They were also the first team to win backto- back USTA National Boys’ 18 titles at Kalamazoo in 50 years. Along the way, Bob managed to pick up six national junior singles trophies, while Mike got five. They were the last brothers (in 1996) to be ranked in the Top 10 of the Boys’ 18 division of the USTA National Junior Rankings at the same time.
To those watching The Twins off the court, there are still other subtle ways to tell the guys apart. Bob has always worn a shell beaded necklace. He is also taller — 6’4” to Mike’s 6’31/2”.
The final goal on Bob and Mike’s list was achieved in when they clinched that Davis Cup for the United States, but that doesn’t mean the twins are done playing. “Doubles is a game that you develop into your early, mid 30s,” says Bob. “See guys in their 30s getting better. I think we’ll still improve.”
April 29, 2008 marked the 30th birthday of Bob and Mike Bryan. As they head into their 30s they decided to just add to the list the goal of chasing some records. The “Woodies” currently hold the record for the most year end number one finishes (5), however, it looks like that record will not last for much longer if Bob and Mike have their way.