Bryans are twice the Fun
Posted: Monday August 27, 2001 9:05 PM

By Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated

NEW YORK -- They've heard every lame twins joke imaginable. People kid them all the time about inducing double vision, about not needing a mirror, about that pending Doublemint gum endorsement They've been addressed by the other's name more times than they care to count. They've even been mistakenly kissed by the other's girlfriend.

Still, even Mike and Bob Bryan were stunned by their identical fate when the pairings for the 2001 U.S. Open were announced.Placed in the same
quadrant, they both drew former champions -- and, arguably, the two favorites to win the event -- in the first round. Bob, a wild card ranked No. 161, took on Pat Rafter Monday afternoon in the Stadium Court. A few hours later, Mike, a qualifier ranked 301, traded licks against Andre Agassi at the same venue. "What are the odds of that?" asked Mike.
Powerballesque, to be sure, but still not as slim as the chances that either of the twins would emerge victorious. Indeed, Rafter scuttled the possibility of a Bryan-Bryan quarterfinal, beating Bob 7-6, 6-3, 7-5. "The plan was for me to start it and for Mike to bring it home," Bob said, smiling. "Guess that didn't happen."
Yet with one tap of the knuckles and the chant, "Wonder Twin powers: Activate. Form of a doubles team" they'll join forces and return to the tennis center later this week as the eighth-seeded tandem. With Bob now situated in the ad court and Mike in the deuce -- they swapped positions earlier this season -- the Bryans are in the throes of an exceptional year, currently sixth in the ATP doubles race. They've won three tournaments in the past two months and have compiled a record of 42-17 in 2001. Davis Cup captain Pat McEnroe isn't revealing his hand -- he'll make his final decision after the Open -- but the Bryans are the frontrunners to represent the U.S. next month in the tie against India. "We've reached all our goals so far," says Mike. "Davis Cup is our biggest goal; it would great."
As with many twins, it's virtually impossible to exaggerate their closeness, both in terms of appearance and emotional bonds. They're best friends, soulmates and bandmates in the originally named Bryan Brothers Band. (Bob plays keyboards and Mike drums; Andy Roddick often steps in on vocals). They split a computer, a cell phone, even an e-mail address. They not only bought a house together in California, they share a room. "We have out fights, sure," says Bob, who accompanied to the Open by his girlfriend, Jennifer, a USC student who is John Wayne's granddaughter. "But Mike is the person I'm closest to in the world."
It's always been that way. Shortly after their dual birth in Camarillo, Calif., on April 29, 1978, they showed a near Siamese attachment. Bob recalled that when their parents, Wayne and Kathy, removed one brother from the crib, the other brother cried. Until they were 16, their parents didn't allow them to play the other in matches, smothering any flicker of a sibling rivalry. Even when they finally did play, it felt more like practice. "I'm not energized and fighting to beat the enemy," says Bob. "It's my brother, my twin brother."
Whether it's nature or nurture, the Bryans also share a heavy dose of charisma. Affable, well-spoken and armed with self-deprecatory senses of humor, they can work a room like politicians. They also play with an energy and passion that makes for good viewing. In other words, they are precisely the type of players that can give doubles a boost. (Think the Jensens with better hair.)
As it stands, doubles is the red-headed stepchild of men's tennis, its draws infused with little-known specialists who provoke little interest -- or ticket-buying -- from the public. The Bryans seek to change that. "If people would give it a chance, doubles is great to watch with lots of volleying and exciting points," says Bob, a former NCAA singles champ at Stanford. "It just needs to be marketed better."
After his match Monday, however, Bob wasn't quite ready to turn his attention to doubles. He planned to shower, eat and maybe head back to the hotel for a nap before returning to watch his brother take on Agassi. "I'm nervous already," he said. "My relationship with Mike, when he's out there, it's like playing every point with him. I'm going to feel like I've played twice today."

Half volleys

Tough day for former Stanford players. In addition to the Bryans, former Cardinal Marissa Irvin fell to Justine Henin, and Laura Granville, the 2001 NCAA champ, got her clock cleaned by Martina Hingis. The running joke: A Cal alum must have rigged the draw. ... Another day, another Houdini-like escape for Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario. Down 5-3 in a third-set tiebreaker to mad Hungarian Petra Mandula, ASV ran off four straight points to win the match. ... Michael Chang, who will forever be linked with Sánchez-Vicario after their dual French Open titles 12 -- gulp -- years ago, was not as lucky. The former world No. 2 fell to Nicolas Lapentti in straight sets. ... Bulletin-board fodder from Lindsay Davenport on whether the Williams sisters are accorded special treatment because of their race: "I don't know. It's you guys [the media] that don't criticize them. You tell me." ... Bob Bryan informs us that Roddick recently scored Jessica Simpson's phone number. "He's all pumped," Bryan said, before adding sheepishly, "I'm supposed to keep that out of the papers for sure." Uh, not likely.


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