Bob and Mike Bryan, or simply “The Bryans,” have won eight Grand Slam Doubles Titles, including the career Grand Slam by winning each major. They have combined to win eight additional Grand Slam Mixed-Doubles Titles and they maintain a 15-2 record while representing the United States in Davis Cup play. Their 59 career tour titles place them second all-time behind Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge. I recently had the chance to pose a few questions to the twins, touching on their training, their overall view of doubles and, of course, their love for the U.S. Open and New York tennis fans.
As "doubles specialists," what kind of specialized training do you use to achieve optimal performance?
Bob Bryan: We have a bunch of special drills that we do. Things like RDC and UCSB Close Volley drills to sharpen our net play.
Mike Bryan: Plus, we have a whole series of two-on-one combo drills we do with our traveling coach, David MacPherson, to simulate points and situations. You have to have all the shots to play good and winning doubles.
Bob Bryan: I agree. You have to have a big, consistent and accurate serve; super sharp volleys; and a low, hard and consistent return. We also spend lots of time on our serves and returns.
Mike: We work on our returns by having our coach or practice partner hit serves up close from the service line. And it’s important to try and hit returns in the near alley and the cross court alley.
Bob: You have four-and-a-half feet to use in each alley, and it’s important to use it!
Doubles is not a regular part of junior tennis players' schedules until they compete on the high school or college level. How do you think younger players can be better introduced to the doubles game?
Bob Bryan: We feel strongly that every junior tournament should offer doubles. We feel that it is better to have singles and doubles at a junior tournament, than singles and a back draw singles.
Mike Bryan: No doubt! Kids love doubles. It gives them a second chance. Doubles rounds out skills. It teaches additional life lessons. And some kids just like the team thing—some juniors have a doubles personality. They like it better when they have a partner and are not out there alone.
Bob Bryan: We feel you could quadruple the number of youngsters playing tennis with better programming, promotion and instruction for doubles.
Mike Bryan: If you go to a junior tournament or a club event and watch a doubles match, you will see more smiles and happier players. You will see high fives, chest bumps, and one player encouraging and picking up their partner.
Bob Bryan: Yeah, that's what makes it fun … two players working together and supporting each other.
Mike Bryan: We feel that there is much more strategy and tactics you can use in doubles. We feel that singles is checkers and doubles is chess. A lesser team can be a better and more skillful or powerful team if they use good sound strategy.
You recently played and defeated Rafael Nadal and his partner in a tournament. Would you like to see more of the top singles players in the doubles events?
Mike Bryan: Yes, we beat Rafa and Bartolome Vidal, 6-0, 6-3 last month in Miami and we've beaten Roger Federer four times in doubles and Nadal three or four times too. In fact, at Indian Wells last year, we beat Roger Federer and Yves-Allegro, 6-0, 6-2 in the first round and Rafa Nadal and Marc Lopez, 6-4, 6-3 in the next round.
Bob Bryan: That's a pretty tough first and second round, eh?
Mike Bryan: There are more singles players playing doubles now than ever before, and the rules for the past four years have allowed singles players to use their rankings to get into the doubles draws.
Bob Bryan: I think the fans get a kick out of seeing the singles stars playing the doubles stars.
Mike Bryan: There are different skills sets that make you excel in doubles as opposed to singles. In singles play, a huge topspin forehand and lots of stamina might take you to the top, but in doubles, again, you need all the shots to excel—a solid serve, crisp and accurate returns and you must be a great volleyer.
Bob Bryan: People always ask where are the serve and vollyers now? They are alive and well in the doubles game. Most all the top doubles player serve and volley on both the first and second serves.
As dedicated U.S. Davis Cup players, what kind of reaction do you get while playing on "home" turf in New York for the U.S. Open?
Bob Bryan: We certainly love playing in the U.S. and in New York, and we always get good crowd support. Having the crowd behind you helps in tennis, just like in football, basketball or baseball.
Mike Bryan: And we are really fortunate that we get pretty good support in any country that we play. We try to give back to the sport and to the fans, sign every autograph that we possibly can, and try and play with enthusiasm and a sense of entertainment.
Bob Bryan: And yes, I think having played on the U.S. Davis Cup team all these years and having won the title in 2007 has helped increase our fan base, but we have sure loved playing doubles for the team, and winning the championship in Portland over Russia was our biggest tennis thrill and highlight.
How important is fan interaction, signing autographs, participating in clinics with young players and similar events, to you?
Bob Bryan: Sure, we feel that is very, very important. We remember players that inspired us and who encouraged us along the way—Andre Agassi, the Jensen Brothers, Ricky Leach … we haven't forgotten that.
Mike Bryan: We feel we owe the fans and the great sport of tennis, but you know the truth is that we really enjoy interacting with the fans and the kids. It is fun for us.
Bob Bryan: Yeah, I agree. We like doing clinics, especially with our dad. The whole idea is to have fun.
Mike Bryan: And yeah, we have a song out on iTunes called “Autograph,” and its kind of a funny song about something that we spend lots of time doing. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic also do verses on that song. We think people would like that tune and all of our other five songs on the “Let It Rip” CD.
When not on the court, what passions drive you?
Bob Bryan: I think most tennis fans know that we love playing music and have since we were little boys. I play keyboard and keyboard bass, while Mike plays drums and lead guitar. We love playing in our big music studio at home and we also have a blast playing gigs.
Mike Bryan: We've already played 17 gigs this year. Rock clubs like the Viper Room in Hollywood and Cafe du Nord in San Francisco.
Bob Bryan: And, we usually play two or three gigs at each tournament we play like Indian Wells, Miami, Delray Beach and Houston. And what has been really cool has been having the incredible Counting Crows drummer, Jim Bogios, sit in and play several of our dates along with their lead guitar player, Dan Vickery.
Mike Bryan: And a huge highlight for us was sitting in and playing with the Counting Crows at a concert for 30,000 people last October in Tampa.
Bob Bryan: Besides music, our other passion is raising money for our Bryan Brothers Foundation, which we use to help kids in need. At our Foundation fundraising events, we usually have a pro am, an exhibition and, of course, musical performances by various bands.
Mike Bryan: We are so appreciative to players like Andre [Agassi], James [Blake], Mardy [Fish], Sam [Querrey], Maria [Sharapova], Lindsey [Davenport], Paul [Goldstein], Justin [Gimelstob], and so many more. Plus our long time pal and actress Kaley Cuoco, comedian Jon Lovitz and actor Matthew Perry usually play our events.