Double the fun

Bryan twins hook up in Shriver's hometown charity event for what is `like a singles player playing a doubles team'

Mercantile Tennis Challenge

December 06, 2006|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN REPORTER

Bob Bryan. Mike Bryan. Two bodies. Two minds. One entity.

"Double Delicious," said People magazine, when it named the world's No. 1 doubles team to its list of Sexiest Men Alive.

"It's cool," Bob said. "We've gotten more attention from that than for our tennis."

"It's embarrassing," Mike said. "Until now, no one has thought of us as being sexy. The little ballgirls are about the only ones who think we're cute. My girlfriend loves it, but she doesn't want us to get too big, either, afraid I might leave her, but that's not going to happen."

That might be the biggest difference they've expressed in more than two decades.

Just how alike they are will be on display tonight at 1st Mariner Arena when they headline the Mercantile Tennis Challenge. The Challenge, in its 21st year, is an exhibition originated by tennis Hall of Famer Pam Shriver to raise money for children's charities in her hometown.

Playing doubles against the Bryans will be Mardy Fish, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist and top American hopeful Robby Ginepri. Fish and Ginepri also will play a singles match.

Shriver's former doubles partner, Martina Navratilova, and Lindsay Davenport also will be on hand, teaming with the Bryans in a mixed doubles match. Bob will partner with Navratilova, recreating the team that won the U.S. Open mixed doubles title in September.

"People do get transfixed watching us," said Bob about the twins pairing. "We're dressed the same. We start and stop at the same time. Being twins, we've always been together. We grew up hitting together. We pushed each other. We both wanted to be tennis players. We both love music, too. It's our second passion. We play oldies and we've written about 30 of our own songs. We like the same music.

"Actually, it's like being the same person," Bob said.

"It is like being one person," Mike said. "We're connected. When we play, it's like a singles player playing a doubles team, a little intimidating. But we're so connected, if anything happens to him, it feels like I'm the one who is hurt. If anyone comes after him, I'm going after that guy."

But they're not exactly the same person. They agree Bob got "more right brain, the creative side," while Mike got the left, thoughtful side. "I think things through," he said. "I'm the one who is on time."

There are advantages and disadvantages, though.

"We're brothers," Mike said. "Most brothers wouldn't get along 24 hours a day, working together, traveling together, everything together."

One of the things they do on the road to break the monotony is play their instruments. Bob takes a small keyboard along. Mike brings his guitar. They have a small computer and iPod speakers, and they make music together, performing and writing songs.

But they both agree, playing tennis helps their relationship the most.

"It helps to get on the court and be professionals," Bob said.

"Yeah," Mike said. "We actually play at our best when we don't talk and just let our telepathy take over. I look at his face and know what he's thinking."

They are flattered to be the star attraction here, something that doesn't happen a lot. Doubles, while very popular on local tennis courts with the public, generally plays second fiddle to the singles game on the pro circuit.

And the Bryans know most players want to be singles players when they first come on the pro circuit. Bob wanted to initially, partly because he wanted to be independent and have an identity separate from his brother's.

"But after a year and a half or two, I eventually got over it," Bob said. "A lot of people say, `Bob, you could have been a great singles player,' if I had started singles earlier. But as a twin doing something with your brother is very satisfying. All our contracts now are doubles contracts, and I don't have that singles dream anymore."

Mike remembers what it was like when Bob played more singles. He said it was hard to focus and when Bob won a match, there was no sharing the joy of victory.

"It's different," Mike said. "Most guys would like to be singles players, but we find it is more special winning with your brother than getting it done just for yourself."

At age 28, they still love playing the game and allow their enthusiasm to show, something fans thoroughly enjoy.

The Bryans say they can see a post-tennis, post age-35 future, where they do more with their music, go back to Stanford to finish their degrees and still have some involvement in the game with coaching or broadcasting. Still as a team. Going through life together.

But for now, they have some things left to accomplish on court - like becoming the best men's doubles team of all time - a title Navratilova and Shriver hold on the women's tour - and enjoying nights like tonight.

"There is going to be a lot of laughing and jokes," Mike said. "No one is going to want to leave, that's how much fun it's going to be. But we plan to win. We're the headliners. We have to show we're the best doubles team in the world. We're going to take care of business."

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

Bryan brothers side by side

BOB BRYAN MIKE BRYAN

Birthdate April 29, 1978 April 29, 1978 Birthplace Camarillo, Calif. Camarillo, Calif.

Residence Wesley Chapel, Fla. Wesley Chapel, Fla.

Height 6-4 6-3

Weight 202 pounds 192 pounds

Plays Left-handed Right-handed

Turned pro 1998 1998

Coach David Macpherson David Macpherson

This season Singles record: 0-1 Singles record: 0-0 Singles titles: 0 Singles titles: 0 Doubles record: 66-14 Doubles record: 66-14 Doubles titles: 7 Doubles titles: 7 Prize money: $810,930 Prize money: $810,930

Career Singles record: 18-38 Singles record: 5-9 Singles titles: 0 Singles titles: 0 Doubles record: 381-163 Doubles record: 394-165 Doubles titles: 33 Doubles titles: 35 Prize money: $3,789,697. Prize money: $3,556,949.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.