In a disappointing tourney, Bryans worth rooting for
Posted: Monday July 10, 2006 12:34PM; Updated: Monday July 10, 2006 4:06PM
Bob (right) and Mike Bryan celebrate a winner during their Wimbledon championship match.
Paul Cole/Getty Images
I realize Wimbledon was a huge disappointment for American tennis fans, since there were no American singles quarterfinalists for the first time in almost a century.
However, there are two American players celebrating their Wimbledon fortnight today, and, not surprisingly, they are the often overlooked and underappreciated doubles champions, Bob and Mike Bryan.
On Saturday the Bryans completed the career doubles Slam with a four-set victory over Fabrice Santoro and Nenad Zimonjic, becoming only the third team to accomplish the feat in the Open era. They joined Australian greats Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde and the Dutch tandem of Paul Haarhuis and Jacco Eltingh.
While doubles is still the redheaded stepchild of professional tennis, this might be a good time to embrace the talented, entertaining twins from Camarillo, Calif.
The first time I encountered the Bryans was in San Diego, where we were all competing in the Boys' 12-and-under National Championships. They were always a package deal, identical in every way except for their dominant hands and Mike's trademark mole. They were born and bred tennis players, offspring of a professional tennis mother and a tennis-teaching, tennis-breathing enthusiast for a father.
The twins were always going to make a living playing tennis, and doubles was going to be their specialty. Throughout juniors they were developing skills that would enable them to stand exactly where they were Saturday afternoon: On Centre Court at Wimbledon with the doubles championship trophy above their heads.
I have vivid memories of the twins practicing doubles-specific drills, such as quick volley exchanges to build their reflexes, and perfecting their half-court skills. They often sacrificed singles development and individual glory to maximize their shared opportunities.
This is not to say they wouldn't, or couldn't, have had many singles successes between them. I always believed they could have had good singles careers, but it was obvious they preferred having a great doubles career to a good singles one.
One of the things that separates them from other "doubles specialists" is that they are tennis players who chose doubles as their priority, as opposed to many of their competitors, who couldn't make it as professional singles players and turned to doubles to make a living.
The other advantage is less subtle and more genetic. Their communication -- a key in doubles -- is uncanny, and having played together since they could pick up a racket gives the brothers an incredible advantage. It's as if they know what the other is thinking, where he is going to be or where he'll hit the next shot. They move together as a flowing tandem, and no matter how much another doubles team tries to replicate familiarity, they can't match the Bryans' genetic advantage.
The Bryan Brothers are fun to watch and easy to support. They are as American as apple pie and they are Wimbledon champions. So even if we didn't get the results we wanted in the singles, let's appreciate our doubles champions now and in the future.