It's the holiday season, and the Bryan brothers, Mike and Bob, believe in miracles. In fact, said Mike Bryan, they experienced one a week ago in London when they reclaimed the year-end No. 1 doubles ranking at the ATP World Tour Finals.
"We were 900 points behind," he said. "We were a real long shot. We could only get 1,300 points if we won everything, and then we lost in the first round, which meant for us to advance out of the consolation bracket to the quarterfinals we were going to have to win two matches in straight sets - which we did. And then we won the whole thing.
"It really was a miracle."
The Bryan twins will bring their doubles game to 1st Mariner Arena tonight for the Baltimore Community Foundation's Tennis Challenge, the 24th annual edition of Pam Shriver's event that benefits children's charities.
The Challenge, which will feature two current and two former world No. 1 players, will have a different format this year, using the TeamTennis style. On one side will be the Bryans; former No. 1 Lindsay Davenport; 22-year-old Russian player and model Olga Poutchkova, who won her first professional tournament in an International Tennis Federation event in Baltimore in July 2003; and Orioles pitcher Brad Bergesen. On the other side are former world No. 1 John McEnroe; U.S. Open stars John Isner and Melanie Oudin; and Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie.
They will play five-game matches in women's and men's singles, the Orioles Challenge and men's and mixed doubles.
"It's a fun and exciting format," Shriver said. "Each game counts, and it makes an exhibition more competitive. The players who aren't playing will be sitting on their team's bench urging them on, and we hope it will create a livelier atmosphere."
Shriver said Wayne Bryan, the twins' dad and one of the most prominent tennis announcers in the country, will be making the introductions and helping keep the crowd engaged with his knowledge of the sport. Shriver, a Baltimore native, will also be working the microphone.
"It's a cool format," Mike Bryan said. "And we want our side to play good tennis and win, especially against McEnroe. We don't want to hear about it every time we see him after this if we lose. He wants to win everything."
The Bryans, 31, have won 56 titles - one behind Peter Fleming and McEnroe, and five behind all-time leaders Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge.
"We'll catch McEnroe this year, and, if things go the way they've been going, we could catch the Woodies this year, too," said Bryan, who with his brother has averaged five titles a year for the past eight years. "It would be a huge accomplishment. Those guys set the standard for doubles. We'd be honored to be in their company."
The evening will start with a singles match between Oudin and Poutchkova and end with a singles match between Is- ner and Bob Bryan. In between, McEnroe will play doubles (with Isner) and mixed doubles (with Oudin), while Davenport will play mixed and the Orioles Challenge. Each will compete in two matches.