Bob and Mike Bryan — you know them as the Bryan Brothers — take the court later today for their second-round match at the U.S. Open. They romped in their opening match on Wednesday, winning 6-1, 6-3. The duo, the most successful doubles team in tennis history, also happen to be twins. Now they're pursuing their sixth US Open crown and their 17th grand slam title, which would equal Roger Federer's haul. The last major they won was the 2014 US Open, but at the age of 37, they insist that they are still a long way from retirement.
Though they recently split with their longtime coach, Dave Macpherson, the siblings have brought Dusan Zemic, who previously worked with world number one Novak Djokovic. We caught up with the Bryans on the eve of the Open, as they were announcing a new endorsement deal with KT Tape, an elastic tape that is believed to help in the treatment of sore and injured muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
Earlier this summer, despite being the defending gold medalists, the Bryans pulled out of the Rio Olympics due to concerns over Zika. They said they had no regrets about that decision but that “watching the opening ceremonies was definitely tough, knowing that we gave up that opportunity,” as Mike put it. He added that the Tokyo Games in 2020 might be an option for them, a comment that underscored their determination to keep playing for years to come. “We want to keep going,” said Bob. “We’re still loving it. We’re desperate for more titles. We are not going to limp off the tour; we’re going to go out with a bang.” The brothers pointed to Leander Paes and Daniel Nestor, doubles powerhouses who are still competing and winning in their forties, as examples they hope to emulate. “That’s what we are shooting for, assuming we can still walk,” Mike quipped.
Doubles teams come and go all the time, and the breakups are often acrimonious. The Bryans have said the key to their longevity is not necessarily fraternal love — though that’s certainly part of it — but rather, the license they have, as siblings, to be unabashedly candid with one another. They touched on this point during the interview. “It’s like a marriage,” said Mike. “It’s about keeping the lines of communication open. We’re brutally honest with each other.” He said a lot of doubles teams split up because the partners can’t be so direct with one another and resort to backstabbing. Bob added that another source of tension for other teams is mistrust and insecurity, the constant fear of being dumped by your partner if you are struggling with your game.
For the Bryans, that’s not an issue. “We’re a package deal,” said Mike. “I’m not going anywhere.” Apart from the Williams sisters, the Bryan Brothers are the most successful American players of this generation, and they are always among the star attractions at the Open, where they are seeded third this year. But when it comes to media coverage, doubles is very much an afterthought, which frustrates the brothers. “We understand that singles gets most of the limelight,” said Bob. “But we do all we can to help get doubles more exposure and increase its popularity. Hardcore tennis fans love doubles… Maybe casual fans like the one-on-one gladiator thing. But doubles is a very great product.”