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Match Point

Identical twins from Camarillo, the Bryan brothers share everything from the tennis court to their namesake band. Together they form a doubles team unlike anything their sport has ever seen, arguably the best of all time.

By Maxine Hurt

The mirror image effect gives the twins a unique advantage on the court.

 

win brothers and tennis superstars Bob and Mike Bryan won their first doubles tennis tournament at the age of six and never looked back. The 31-year-old Camarillo natives—who just finished the year ranked number one on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) World Tour—have taken 56 pro tour titles, including seven Grand Slam events: Wimbledon 2006; the Australian Open 2006, 2007, 2009; the US Open 2005, 2008; and the French Open 2003. They are the top tournament winners of any team playing today, and just may be, as the New York Times put it, “the best doubles team in the history of their sport.”

As if that isn’t enough, the Bryans are also talented musicians who’ve taken their passion to the next level. Along with friend and singer/songwriter David Baron, they recently released their debut album, entitled Let It Rip. With plenty of guidance from their parents, Wayne and Kathy, who instilled a sense of discipline at an early age, the Bryans have become a classic example of a family that plays together and stays together.

After finishing the 2009 season with a remarkable 68 wins, the Bryans’ trademark chest bump might be considered a health risk.

Do you think you have an unfair advantage on the court because you are twins?

MIKE: Yeah, we have a huge advantage. We’ve played in so many matches together, shared a lot of the same experiences, and practiced every day since we were tiny. When we are out there, we are really comfortable with each other and everything just flows. Most teams have only played together for a few months, maybe a year. But we’ve been playing together since age six. It really helps with our communication on the court. I don’t know if we really know what the other is thinking, but it’s pretty close when we are playing tennis.

BOB: When they lose a match, most guys separate and go to different cities to see their families. We are on a flight together, right back to Spanish Hills, Camarillo, to work on what we need to work on. We are always trying to improve our game.

Do you think other players are intimidated by your closeness?

MIKE: They may be, because … we never play the blame game, which some guys do. We are one unit. They know we are never going to split up.

BOB: It might be intimidating when they look over at the other side of the net and see two mirror images. They don’t really know who is who out there. It could seem a little weird because you are facing a family that is coming together to try and beat you.

The Bryan family at home in Camarillo. From left: Mike, Kathy, Bob, and Wayne.

Your parents were passionate about tennis. What was it like having them spearhead your career?

MIKE: My dad was the motivator and made tennis really fun for us. My mom played on the tour and had great insight into what it took to be a professional. From day one we were geared toward going the tennis route. … They are very positive, and they didn’t push us too hard. They never came down on us for losing matches. They are still heavily involved in our tennis even though they don’t travel.

Was there ever a point in your career when you thought this might not be right for the two of you?

BOB: No. We always pushed each other, and our dad always kept it fun. He developed our love for the game first, before we actually started training. We were having fun just going to tournaments and seeing the pros play and sign autographs. Then it was all about setting goals. We were putting our goals on the refrigerator every January first. At first it was goals like, win tournaments and collect trophies. And then, get good enough to get on the Prince free list, get free clothes, make our college team, and get a college scholarship. And then it was to eventually play pro tennis and play on the Davis Cup team. It was just little goals, baby steps, until we got to the top.

Bob (with pen) and Mike sign shirts, rackets, and photos for fans around the world.

Your childhood was clearly different from the average person’s. What it was like to have such a unique upbringing?

MIKE: Our whole life was spent at the Cabrillo Racquet Club in Somis. We didn’t party. We didn’t really have a high school life. It was a tennis life. It was going to tournaments on the weekends. It wasn’t hanging out with friends at the beach. We sacrificed a lot, but it didn’t seem like a sacrifice to us because we were having fun doing it.

Although you’re rarely in Camarillo these days, you seem to maintain strong local ties.

MIKE: Our Dad was big in the community. He knew everyone in Camarillo from the club, and we still have so many friends here. This is where we like to come when we aren’t on the tour.

BOB: Even when we go all around the world, this is our favorite spot to come back to.

MIKE: We’ve pretty much traveled everywhere, and if we have a week off we are not going to run off to Monte Carlo, we are coming back here. It’s quiet and it’s outside of LA, which we love. We have our favorite spots: Eggs ‘N Things in the morning, Chuy’s for lunch. We have a great routine. We live right across the street [from Spanish Hills Country Club]. It’s low key, and we’ve got this court whenever we want to practice. Spanish Hills 20 years ago was the big rival to my dad’s club. This place was off limits. Then we went off to Stanford and my dad got out of his club. Dave McKinney and Brian Giffin, the pros who were over at Cabrillo, moved here and we’ve been here ever since.

Music is more than a passing hobby for the brothers, who released their first CD last summer and gig regularly.

I understand that playing music is a close second to tennis in your lives.

MIKE: We did a little CD this summer that’s out on iTunes. We have a lot of fun with it and do it every day. It’s a huge part of our life. It’s a great outlet to relax. Bob’s on keyboard and I’m on guitar and drums.

BOB: Our first CD is called Let It Rip, by the Bryan Brothers band. We have four gigs later this year and a couple early next year. Whenever we can, we play a gig, or we are practicing and writing new songs.

If you didn’t have tennis to work on together, do you think you would have worked together on another venture?

MIKE: We’d probably be in a band together, or do a business venture together. We’d like to live in the same city, maybe the same block. You know we went to the same college, Stanford. We never really split up. We went to the same classes. We’ve only been separated for like three or four weeks in our entire life. He’ll go on vacation with his girlfriend for four or five days and I do the same thing, but we are pretty much always together.

Where will you go after tennis?

MIKE: I think that after the tour we’ll probably stay involved somehow, commentating, or we’ll do exhibitions or maybe coach in college at Stanford. We are also very passionate about music. It’s our dream to do music after tennis. It would be a lot of fun. … We got a taste of it: We played with the band Counting Crows last year in front of 30,000 people and it was almost better than winning a Grand Slam. In music, there’s just no losing. You play in front of your fans and they are always cheering for you.

12-01-2009

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