In Tennis, everyone celebrates the achievements of singles players in Grand Slams. Many will know that Rod Laver was the first individual to complete the Calendar Slam and the Grand Slam in the Open Era. All Tennis fans hail the brilliance of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer with their 20 titles. Any trivia or statistic that is associated with singles events is often spoken about it a lot more. But, when it comes to doubles, the talk is not so great.
This is because very few prominent players who play singles go on to play doubles. For India, the Tennis fraternity gained prominence primarily in doubles and mixed doubles. Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Sania Mirza, and the rest have done brilliantly in doubles, putting India on the Tennis map. But, when it comes to doubles, there have been two famous duos who have been dominant in the game. The first was the Woodies, Mark Woodforde, and Todd Woodbridge. The others were the Bryan brothers – Bob and Mike Bryan.
One felt that the dominance shown by the Woodies could not be overhauled easily. But, the Bryan brothers established a level of dominance that might never be overhauled. Their records are simply phenomenal, be it Grand Slams, ATP tour, or the Olympics. They have achieved everything that needs to be. Thus, the Bryan brothers deserve every bit of appreciation that they can get.
Born on April 29, 1978, Mike is the older by two minutes. The identical twins already started charting their course of dominance at the age of six. They won a doubles event in California. They are also mirror image twins. Mike is right-handed while Bob is left-handed. In the junior doubles circuit, Bob and Mike both had a penchant for dominance as they won over 100 titles. The success of the twins saw Stanford University give them a full Tennis scholarship. In the collegiate circuit, they ended as the No.1 ranked duo for a lot of years.
With so much dominance in the collegiate circuit, it was expected that the Bryans would dominate the Grand Slam circuit. But, it was not such an easy ride. They lost in the first round of the 1995 US Open. But, they gained some success in the Challenger tournaments. After setbacks for the first 3-4 years, the Bryans achieved success at the turn of the 21st century.
In 2001, the twins enjoyed their first success on the big stage. They won four ATP titles and reached the semifinal of Wimbledon that year. The Bryans ended the year as number seven. 2001 was already hailed as the passing of the torch in singles. Even in doubles, the Bryans would go on to chart a new level of dominance.
The year 2003 saw them clinch the French Open title for the first time without dropping a set. After clinching several ATP titles, they surpassed the mark of 10 doubles titles which was earlier held by the American duo of Tim and Tom Gullikson. It was in 2006 where the Bryans showed their brilliance. They reached the final of all four Grand Slams but lost in three. It was at the US Open where they ended their jinx and they won the title in front of their adoring home fans.
Throughout their careers, the Bryan brothers maintained a level of consistency that was staggering. From 2009 till 2014, they won a staggering 54 titles out of the 72 finals that they reached. This meant that they won 75 percent of the titles in those five years. The Bryans, in this interim, had achieved the non-calendar Grand Slam as well. After winning the US Open in 2012, they won the Australian, French, and Wimbledon titles in 2013. Their streak ended when they lost in the semi-final of the US Open.
A total of 15 Grand Slam titles is a testament to the greatness of the Bryan brothers. From 2009 to 2014, they were the undisputed No.1 in Tennis doubles with the rest having to play catch-up. In this period, their trademark celebration of chest-bumping after winning a game became prominent. Apart from the Grand Slam, the brothers completed their dominance by winning the gold medal during the 2012 London Olympics.
A winning percentage of 80 in Grand Slams, Davis Cup success for the USA, winners of the season-ending ATP Finals four times, and a total of 119 titles together. Those are staggering numbers in whatever way one has to measure the benchmark. The Bryan brothers redefined the Tennis landscape in doubles and many might struggle to even match up to those feats.
The Woodies, Paes and Bhupathi have all achieved massive success on the international arena. But, the Bryans have put them all behind. Their later years were filled with struggles. The coronavirus pandemic did not help and they pulled out of the 2020 US Open and announced their retirement. It was a sad way to go for the Bryans. But, for their contributions in Tennis, the sport will always be indebted to the brilliance of the Bryan brothers in doubles.