Success is a State of Mind
By Bob Buttitta
This season the 23-year old Bryans have won three doubles titles, capturing the Miller Lite Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, R.I.; the London/Queen’s Club Tournament and the Memphis.

Their win at the Hall of Fame tournament came following the brothers’ dramatic run at Wimbledon, a run that saw them reach the doubles semifinal.

“It’s our best title of the three because we were expected to win,” Bob Bryan said of their win at Newport. “We were the favorites. We were coming off Wimbledon, where we played well and beat the top doubles teams in the world.”

“It was hard going from Center Court at Wimbledon to Court 1 at Newport which doesn’t seat flies. It was a big test for us because we were tired and coming off a big tournament.”

“We won without our “A” game. We didn’t let it slip away, we stayed mentally strong and focused and that allowed us to get through. It was a great test for us, and we passed it.”

The Bryans next big test comes this week at the Mercedes Benz Cup, being played today through Sunday at UCLA.

The brothers are ranked No.1 heading into the competition, that despite a less than sterling history in the event.

Prior to Bob’s 6-7(3), 7-6(3), 6-3 first-round victory over Anthony Dupuis on Monday, the Bryans had never won a match at Mercedes, either in singles or doubles.
“This year we’re coming in here to win,” Mike Bryan said. “We are really confident. We’re taking it more seriously this year. We want to show the people in Camarillo we can play tennis. We want to go out and impress them.”

“We’re going down and staying in the hotel and treating it like a normal tournament and not like a home exhibition as we have in years past.”

After a grueling 14-week stretch, much of it played in Europe, and staring another nine-week stretch in the face, the idea situation would be to have this week off to rest.
Both brothers said if the tournament were being held anywhere other than in Los Angeles, there’s no way they would be at home relaxing, getting rested for the last push of the season.

“It’s difficult because we want to go hard, but we also need to relax mentally,” Bob Bryan said. “Our plan is to go down and practice hard, but then go out with friends at night and enjoy ourselves.”

“The challenge is to work a tournament into a week off. We have to try and combine both. It would be awesome if we could win Los Angeles.”

While winning is always the objective, the main goal for the brothers is to continue the strong stretch of play.

Currently the No. 6 ranked doubles team in the ATP, they are in great position to achieve one of their longtime goals, a spot on the United States Davis Cup team.

Patrick McEnroe, the current Davis Cup captain, told the Star that the Bryans are a serious candidate.

“I have been following the Bryans closely,” McEnroe said. “They are working hard, getting better and improving. We have had a tough time finding a good doubles team for the Davis Cup. The fact that they play together a lot is an added bonus.”
“They need to keep doing what they are doing, keeping winning matches. They are more consistent now then they were. I would love to see them win some big tournaments (Montreal and Cincinnati). At the same time I am not saying they have to win those tournaments to get selected.”
“They are growing up, their games are getting better and they are maturing as far as being pros. Craig Edwards has been great for them. These guys are still pretty young and often times doubles players develop a little bit slower than singles. If they continue they will be one of the top teams in the world.”
The mark of a great athlete is being able to prevail even when he or she doesn’t have their “A” game.

Having been dominant tennis players on both the junior and collegiate levels, there is not doubt about the skills that Camarillo’s Bob and Mike Bryan possess.

But despite their natural abilities, during their first few years on the ATP Tour, the Bryan twins knew if they weren’t at their best, they weren’t going to win. They lacked the mental strength needed to grind out a victory when the breaks were going against them.

That’s not the case in this, their third season on tour, a season that has seen them breakthrough and start reaching heights pre predicted of them after leaving Stanford in 1998.
Having dreamed of playing in the Davis Cup since they were six, the brothers admit they know that McEnroe’s eyes are always on them.

“We know he (McEnroe) watches every match,” Mike Bryan said. “So there is a little pressure. But if we go out and give it a great mental effort and lose, we are not going to be disappointed.”

“We would not be super disappointed if we did not make Davis Cup this year, because if we don’t make it, it means we did not have the results to make it. They want us to make it. We don’t want to get thrown into Davis Cup without having earned it. We will be ready this time or next time, but there’s no rush.”

While both Mike and Bob have made subtle changes to their games since turning pro, both admitted the biggest adjustment has come with their mental approach.

Having dominated at every level before joining the ATP Tour, they said the depth of talent and the constant need for focus was a bit of an eye opening experience.

“It takes a little while to see the game at a new level, to adjust to what you have to do,” Bob Bryan said. “It took a few years to adjust. We will not win every match but we feel we can.”

“Winning the first title in Memphis was the break through for us. Getting that monkey off our back and showing everyone we could string more than a few good games together was pretty big.”

“We were looking for that for 2 ½ years. Players gave us a hard time. When we finally got it, (Todd) Woodbridge and (Jonas) Bjorkman came up and said, it’s about time. We had beaten every one on tour, we just had no title.”

One key to success has been the brothers’ ability to keep their emotions in check on the court.

“it’s important not to get too high or too happy,” Bob Bryan said. “We expect the best out of each other and in the past if I saw him miss a forehand that he makes in practice every day, I would get mad and it would send us in a downward spiral.”

“Now we let things go. We’re both calmer, more patient. We watched a tape of us at Wimbledon and our dad (Wayne) could not get over how relaxed we were. It’s part of maturing and believing in yourself.”
The brothers strong showing over the last few months has sent their confidence level soaring to new heights. 

It’s also helped them reach a new level of respect among their peers.

“We used to beat teams and they would be all bitter because then we were still new on tour,” Mike Bryan said. “As we started playing better that changed and now they have a lot more respect for us. They don’t care if we beat them because they know
we can play.”
While they have made great strides in the last six months, both Mike and Bob agree the best is yet to come.

“We matured so late that we feel we’ve got another five years of improving,” Bob Bryan said. “We are 23 but feel like we’re 19.”

“Our goal is to keep improving and to become the best players we can become.”
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