Like a freight train once we got hot How twin energy powered tennis's best doubles act of all time.
Like a freight train once we got hot How twin energy powered tennis’s best doubles act of all time.© Images AGN

When you eat, sleep, train, and compete with the same person every day, it’s not surprising that you’ll make a strong bond with them. It’s even less surprising if you share the same DNA.

Bob and Mike Bryan’s success and titles on the tennis court came from their “twin energy,” which got stronger as they toured the world together for the better part of 23 years.

The Bryan brothers, as they are known in tennis and beyond, will retire from the sport in August 2020. They were the most successful doubles team in history, winning 16 grand slam titles, 119 tour-level wins, and being world No. 1 for 438 weeks.

In 2012 and 2013, when they almost couldn’t lose, they were at their best as a team. They won the Olympic gold title and all four majors in that time.

Mike tells CNN Sport, “When everything was going well and we were feeling good, it was kind of eerie. Our feet were moving at the same time, and we just knew where to go.” “Once we got hot, it was like a freight train.”

At the French Open this year, it will have been 20 years since the twins from California won their first grand slam title. At the time, they had no idea of the huge success that would follow.

Bob (L) and Mike Bryan won their first grand slam title together at the 2003 French Open.

Instead, they were focused on making Patrick McEnroe, the captain of the US Davis Cup team, a fan at Roland Garros, which they did.

The brothers moved quickly and easily through the French Open doubles draw, beating one opponent after another in straight sets. However, a bout of stress on the day before the final almost stopped them from winning the title.

“At the time, you think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you don’t know if you’ll ever get there again,” Mike says, thinking back on the 2003 French Open challenge. “We couldn’t stop thinking about it, it was on our minds.”

They beat Paul Haarhuis and Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the final by winning the last 16 points, which gave them a 7-6, 6-3 win and set the stage for their future success.

Bob says, “We had a party all night long.” “We went right from the club to a photo shoot with the trophies at the Arc de Triomphe at 9 a.m., but the photos aren’t good enough to use. Because we were so tired, you probably have never seen it.”

Some tennis players switch between playing singles and doubles, but the Bryan brothers stuck to playing doubles their whole lives and were always loyal to each other.

Only after Bob, the older brother by a few minutes, had hip surgery in 2018 did Mike look for a new partner. He won Wimbledon and the US Open with American Jack Sock.

Bob (left) and Mike Bryan hold their Wimbledon doubles trophies in 2011. Julian Finney/Getty Images

“We played together every day, lived together, and just spent every moment together,” says Mike. “On the court, it worked out because we were always on the same page and moved as if we were one unit.”We knew that we would never stop seeing each other. And that kind of gave us comfort, because you know you’ll never turn your back on your brother and look for another partner.

Bob agrees that the brothers never thought about being single.

“We always liked winning doubles matches more, maybe because we were twins,” he told CNN Sport. “But even our sponsors put doubles-specific bonuses in our contracts because they wanted us to play doubles. We were more used to it.”

Since Bob is a left-hander and Mike is a right-hander, they worked well together on the tennis court. However, unlike most left-right doubles teams, they usually played on the backhand side when receiving the serve. They made this change before the French Open in 2003.

During their jobs, they were so close that they even shared a bank account. Sometimes tempers got out of hand, especially when they held each other to high standards during practice.

Mike says, “Every time we practiced, we did it like it was the big game.” “Bob would get on me if I missed a few balls, and I’d get on him if he did. Our practices were pretty rough. We got into some fights out there, but that helped keep the standard very high.

We worked so hard at practice that we could only do one a day. We’d fill up to 90 minutes, but we wouldn’t even drink water. We probably only used two or three balls, and we just went from one hole to the next.

By the end, we had sweated so much that we were soaked. We trained as if it were a big test, and he definitely didn’t let me slack off.”

An iconic Bryan bump at the 2012 US Open. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Even though they were very competitive, they never forgot that they were entertainment. The Stanford Daily called it the “Bryan bump” when they were in college. It was their signature move after winning a tournament or a big point.

Feeding off the energy of the crowd, they ran, jumped, and hit their torsos together as a form of entertainment. This was something they learned from Luke and Murphy Jensen, another American doubles team.

Ten years before the Bryans won their first grand slam title, the Jensen brothers won their only grand slam title at the French Open in 1993.

“We started doing it at Stanford, and then we took it on tour,” Bob says about where the Bryans’ chest bump came from.

“It wasn’t really accepted on the tour for the first couple of years because the salty veterans thought it was a way to show them disrespect.

“To be honest, we were just happy to be there and to have jobs that let us travel the world. Eventually, it caught on and became our thing.”

Since they stopped playing tennis before the 2020 US Open, the boys have been able to take it easy and enjoy life. After being on tour for 40 weeks of the year, they now have more time to spend with their families and can do something they both love: singing.

Mike (left) and Bob (right) perform at La Quinta Resort in California in 2010. Jordin Althaus/WireImage/Getty Images

Mike plays guitar and drums, and Bob plays the keyboard. As the Bryan Brothers Band, they have played at bars, clubs, and even tennis events.

Bob says, “Our music rooms are bigger now, and my kids are playing, so I can play with them.”

That doesn’t mean they’re no longer interested in tennis. They still play legends events at the grand slams and the occasional exhibition game. Bob was just named the USA’s Davis Cup captain before this year’s event.

But the days of fierce racing, intense practice, and high-flying chest bumps are over.

“Once you retire, it’s hard to turn the car back on after you’ve turned it off,” says Bob.

“We knew we wanted to play as long as our minds and bodies could handle it, so when we did quit, we didn’t feel bad about it.”We both feel like we didn’t leave the tour with any unmet dreams that we wish we had done. I think we felt like we gave our jobs everything we had.”

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