Doubling Down: Tennis Players Mike and Bob Bryan
Photo: Kyle Terada/Stanfordphoto.com
By Sam Scott
The Bryans, both ’00, are twins who have been winning doubles tennis tournaments together since they were 6 (reportedly longer than any doubles team in history). They won bronze in Beijing and head to London as record breakers. They have won 78 titles, including 11 Grand Slam tournaments and were named Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Doubles Team of the Decade for 2000-2009. The 2012 Olympic men's doubles first round begins July 28.
I read visitors to your homes want to see your bronze from Beijing more than any of your other trophies, including your majors. What makes the Olympics so special to them—and to you?
Bob: Most sports fans know about and keep up with the majors like Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Serious tennis fans know most all the tournaments from [Los Angeles] to Indian Wells to Cincy to Houston to Barcelona and Beijing. But everyone knows about the Olympics and everyone watches the world over.
Mike: And, like with Davis Cup, we are proud and happy to be playing for the United States. Plus, the Olympics brings people from all over the world together.
Bob: We like getting to know the athletes from other sports and from other countries. That was the cool thing about being at Stanford, we got to know most all the athletes from other sports. Many would come out to our matches and we would go to their games as well.
Mike: The Collins twins, Jason and Jarron [both ’01], now NBA stars, were at Stanford when we were and we got to know them pretty well. In fact, they were with us at the French Open [in June]. We also would often go and see Kerri Walsh [’00] play volleyball.
Bob: The time has gone so fast and it is hard to believe we will be playing in our third Olympics when we compete in London this summer. We are looking forward to it!
Your dad wrote Raising Your Child to Be a Champion in Athletics, Arts and Academics, in which he says a parent’s role after a sporting event—win or lose—is to listen, not critique. What rules do you have for talking to each other after a match? Or is everything fair game?
Mike: We try to not be negative after a tough loss. Best to not really say much of anything when you lose. We just work on things on the practice court the next week.
Bob: Yeah, doubles is a team game and you have to get along and have good chemistry to do well. We are human and we have a few quick arguments every once in a great while after a tough loss, but we usually get along pretty well and that has been a huge key to our success during our career in the juniors, at Stanford and on the pro circuit.
Mike: I can remember our Dad telling us one time in the break between the second and third set at a 10s Sectional Doubles Final, “Hey, Mike ‘n’ Bob, you don’t have to get along on the doubles court—unless you want to win.” We want to win more than we want to have a spat out there on court.
Bob: You see teams breaking up out on the tour all the time. You have to be able to get along in an intense pressure situation if you want to compete well. It is axiomatic that you need good unity and positive chemistry to win in team sports.
Mike: And, hey, Bob and I have been playing doubles together, nonstop, for 28 years now.
When you two tied the record last year for most doubles Grand Slams, [former Secretary of State, and Stanford professor] Condoleezza Rice was on hand to give you a hug. Was that a “Stanford moment?”
Mike: Condoleezza was so nice and positive. It was great having her there.
Bob: She is a good friend of our legendary [Stanford] coach, Dick Gould. He reports that she is a pretty darned good tennis player, too. And what a brilliant and wonderful lady [who] has obviously done so much for our country.
Mike: Next time we visit the Farm, maybe we can hit some balls with her. We like to think she was rooting for Americans and former Stanford players.
Mike, you play drums, and Bob, you play keyboard in a band of your own. As devoted musicians, what’s on your iPod before a match?
Bob: We love the Dave Matthews Band and started listening to them when we were at Stanford. We saw them in San Francisco while we were in school.
Mike: We also like U2, Counting Crows and Maroon 5. The drummer for Counting Crows, Jim Bogios, is one of our best friends and lives in NorCal. He has played lots of gigs with our Bryan Bros. Band and we even performed a tune in a huge concert with the Crows two years ago.
Bob: James Valentine, the lead guitarist for Maroon 5 is also a good friend of ours and we’ve jammed with him at our home studio a few times. The Maroon 5 guys came to some of matches at the French Open [this year].
Mike: Former American Idol star, Michael Johns, is also a close pal and sings with our band often, along with Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter James Slater from Nashville.
Bob: These guys all play and love tennis and we got to know them all through tennis. They come and play gigs with us and we always hit balls with them.
Mike: Our Dad has always had a band and we would go and perform with them when we were just little guys. We love music and have played our whole lives.
Bob: We grew up loving and playing our Dad's music—Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Elvis, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Temptations and the Four Tops. We still like that ol' rock and roll stuff, too.
As world-beaters for so many years, where do you draw motivation to keep going? What’s the biggest carrot for you now?
Bob: We hold most of the all-time doubles records now, but we just want to keep playing and enjoying the game. Motivation is easy and always there for us. We are competitive and we like to win matches and titles. Coach Gould was an intense competitor, too, and he always said to us, “Never satisfied!” He writes us after every title we win.
Mike: Yeah, to excel in sports you have to be competitive as all get out. The ATP Tour is a tough league, indeed, and you play the best tennis players in the world week in and week out. The last record that is sitting out there for us is total number of Grand Slam titles—we are currently tied with the Woodies (Todd Woodbridge-Mark Woodforde) with 11.
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