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Life of Bryans: It's always double or nothing

Twins get along just fine on and off the court, and have become fixtures in Grand Slam finals.

July 22, 2007|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

Well-intentioned, yes. But practical, no.

Trying to split identical twins, Bob and Mike Bryan, was never going to work, not even in the rarefied air of Stanford in the '90s. Not when they arrived on campus from Camarillo with the parental-installed policy of defaulting singles finals against one another to avoid strife.

"Stanford separates siblings, and they knew we were twins. 'OK, let's put Mike on the other side of the campus,' " Bob said.

Mike: "Opposite sides." Bob: "After two months, I had a mattress on Mike's floor. We weren't ready for the complete split."

Why tamper with DNA? The story holds up about a decade later through a decorated tennis career, winding through five Grand Slam doubles titles and nearly unblemished Davis Cup doubles record (one loss) and they have won all the Slams at least once, and repeated this year at the Australian Open.

The Bryans, at 29, are firmly entrenched as fixtures on the final weekend at almost any Slam. They truly have this left brain (Bob), right brain (Mike) thing figured out, firing at will on the court and completing each other's sentences in an interview last week.

"Combine us together and we're one complete person," said Mike, joking.

This ability to be around at the end -- the Bryans earlier made seven consecutive Slam finals in one Open-era record stretch -- has afforded them the opportunity to closely observe an artist at work and rest, one Roger Federer.

Nearly more than anyone else in tennis, the Bryans understand the value of promotion of the sport, and they are united in their admiration of Federer's affability and meaning to the game, giving a bit of a peek behind the Wimbledon curtain during the numerous rain delays this year.

"I first remember him in the locker room, singing, yelling at the top of his lungs," Bob said. "Kind of like a school kid. He's still like that."

Mike: "He's one of the most laid-back guys. He's going for his fifth Wimbledon title and most guys would be totally in their own world, nervous. He's just joking around, singing soccer songs. The last five days on the TV, we were watching [Marcos] Baghdatis play [Nikolay] Davydenko.

Bob: "The Cypriots were doing their Baghdatis chants, 'La, La, La.' And Federer got these songs in his head." Mike: "Then right before his match, maybe five minutes before he goes on, he gets in his own world. Jogging back and forth and you can see him snap right in."

The top-seeded and defending champions Bryans were close to joining Federer as a winner that final Sunday but were derailed by the French duo of Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra and a controversial call in the fourth set by chair umpire Lars Graff, who ruled Bob touched the net with his racket. Replays showed Graff missed the call, according to the official Wimbledon website.

It's never easy to watch someone else's victory celebration, and these French players have a unique way of toasting Slams. In 2004, Llodra and Fabrice Santoro beat the Bryans in the final of the Australian Open and Llodra stripped down to his underwear.

"It wasn't as bad as the Australian Open. I was waiting for that," Mike said of Wimbledon. "Trust me, you want to get off the court as soon as possible. You never like to see guys throwing everything into the crowd and running around the court."

Said Bob: "You never want to lose to, well, I don't want to say a French player. You never want to lose to Llodra. He's on a different planet, that guy."

The Bryans are nothing but resilient. They said they've recovered from the Wimbledon loss and are aiming for their seventh title of 2007 and fourth at UCLA. In Saturday's semifinals at the Countrywide Classic, they defeated the South African team of Jeff Coetzee and Wesley Moodie, 6-4, 7-6 (4).

This tournament at UCLA is also their first one with the new Prince '03 Speedport Black racket, having just switched from Wilson. It's hard for a player to leave a familiar racket.

But technology marches on and so do the Bryans even though they've been the top doubles team on the ATP Tour three of the last four years.

"Once you have a few wins, you feel like that's my stick forever," Mike said. "But I think we can get better. I've already blown a few serves by people -- I'm starting to serve like Bob."


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