When Mike Bryan’s cellphone rang recently and the policeman on the other end of the line told him his home security alarm had gone off one thought flashed up in his head — is my Olympic gold medal safe?
The golden medallion, the one he earned with twin brother Bob at London 2012, is his most prized souvenir from a trophy-laden career that has earned the 38-year-olds 112 titles together, including 16 grand slams.
“We thought someone had broken in, the cops went over and I just said ‘dude, please just check that one spot’ just make sure it’s there. It was there,’” the right-handed half of the most successful doubles team in men’s tennis history, told Reuters at Wimbledon, scene of their Olympic glory.
“It’s the only thing I hide when we leave for a trip.”
No wonder. Bob describes their victory in London as their “greatest moment” while Mike says missing out in Athens, when they were expected to medal, ranked as a low.
They won a bronze in Beijing.
Rio, where they will play with gold-painted rackets, will be Olympics number four — and the last.
Retirement is looming and they want to sign off in style, perhaps with a golden chest bump.
“(Rio) would be a hell of a way to go,” Bob, who juggles life on Tour with wife Michelle and three young children.
“We know Rio will be our last Olympics, I can safely say that. It’s been a huge priority. When we sat down to plan the year in December we said peaking for Rio was the goal. Winning in Rio would mean everything.”
No retirement decision has been taken, says Mike, but “the conversation” could happen depending on what Rio has in store for the hugely-popular California-based brothers whose victory ‘chest bump’ had become their trademark.
“You have to earn your way off the Tour, and you have to blast your way out,” Mike said. “No one wants to limp their way off. (Pete) Sampras had the perfect send-off.
“He won the US Open and said goodbye.”
Amiable off court, a well-oiled machine on it, the Bryans have carried men’s doubles for more than a decade.
Ten times they have ended a year as top dogs and have held the number one ranking together for close to 450 weeks in total.
Watching them play is a study in fidgety synchronisation.
They are used to being ‘hunted’ wherever they play, but the Olympics is a whole different ball game with players who usually shun doubles pairing up.
Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will all play doubles in Rio — Wimbledon champion Murray partnering brother Jamie who was recently ranked one in doubles.
“London was the toughest title we’ve won, we were so pumped,” Bob says. “There’s nowhere to hide in the
Olympics, right from round one. You got all the great singles guys, the doubles guys, all the top stars.”
“The big four want a medal. No one is gonna give it a half-arsed effort. Gold is a gold,” adds Mike. “That’s going on the medal board for your country. It’s going to be a stacked field.”
While golf has hit the headlines after a slew of Rio no-shows, and several tennis players including the Bryans’ fellow Americans John Isner and Sam Querrey will be absent, the brothers’ eyes light up just thinking about the Olympics.
“It’s bigger than the game of tennis,” Mike said.
While Bob added: “I remember after London it didn’t hit us until about two weeks later when we were driving in Cincinnati. Then I sought of yelled “Yeah” at the top of my lungs.”
“We were like ‘Oh man! this is nuts’. We ended up having one of the best summers of our career.”
So popular were the medals that Mike described his as a ‘celebrity’ in its own right while Bob’s was so in demand it picked up numerous battle scars.
“When I took the medal out people flocked to it,” Mike said. “It was wild. It was like Lord of the Rings. It was crazy.”
Bob even did the dirty on his brother.
“His was all shiny, the ribbon was perfect so I did a switcheroo,” he said. “He didn’t realise until next year!”
Whatever happens in Rio their careers will be forever entwined — it’s either together or never.
“You could go and make some dough with someone else,” Bob teases his brother, “Just cut me in.”
“No, no, we are a package deal. “We came in together we’ll go out together,” Mike says.
About Bryan Brothers
The Bryan Brothers are identical twin brothers Robert Charles “Bob” Bryan and Michael Carl “Mike” Bryan, American professional doubles tennis players, and are the most successful duo of all time. They were born on April 29, 1978, with Mike being the elder by two minutes. The Bryans have won multiple Olympic medals, including the gold in 2012 and have won more professional games, matches, tournaments and Grand Slams than any other men’s pairing. They have held the World No. 1 doubles ranking jointly for 438 weeks (as of October 25, 2015), which is longer than anyone else in doubles history. They have also finished the ATP year-end number 1 doubles team a record 10 times. Between 2005 and 2006, they set an Open Era record by competing in seven consecutive men’s doubles Grand Slam finals. They are also well known for celebrating winning points by chest-bumping each other. Some of their success is attributed to their particular brand of twinship: the Bryans are “mirror twins”, where one is right-handed (Mike) and the other left-handed (Bob). This is advantageous for their court coverage. They have been coached by David Macpherson since 2005.
The Bryan brothers began their year at the 2016 Apia International Sydney where they were beaten in their opening match by Jonathan Erlich and Colin Fleming. The Bryans were then upset in the third round of the 2016 Australian Open by Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram.
The twins were beaten in their opening match at the 2016 Memphis Open by Austin Krajicek and Nicholas Monroe. The Bryans reached the final of the 2016 Delray Beach International Tennis Championships but squandered six championship points before losing to Oliver Marach and Fabrice Martin. The Bryans competed in the first round of the 2016 Davis Cup World Group and gave the United States a 2-1 edge over Australia after a five-set win over Lleyton Hewitt and John Peers on the grass in Melbourne.
The Bryan Brothers were beaten in the quarter-finals of Indian Wells by Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Nenad Zimonjic. The Bryans were up 9-2 in the Match Tie-break, but squandered seven match points in a row (and eight overall) before losing. The twins were unable to defend their title at the 2016 Miami Open as they were beaten in the semi-finals by eventual championsPierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.
The Bryan Brothers made the best possible start to their clay-court campaign. Having saved two match points in their opening match, the Bryans went on to defeat Victor Estrella Burgos andSantiago González in the final to claim their sixth Houston title. This was their first title of the year and 110th overall.
Coming off their win in Houston, they looked to build on momentum. However, they failed to defend their title in Monte Carlo, losing in their opening match to Juan Sebastián Cabal and Robert Farah. The Bryans bounced back by defeating Pablo Cuevas andMarcel Granollers in the final of the 2016 Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell to claim their third Barcelona title. At the Madrid Masters, the twins were beaten in the quarter-finals by the in-form Herbert and Mahut. Having saved three match points in their opening match, the Bryan Brothers went on to win the Rome Masters by beating Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock in the final. This was their 36th Masters 1000 title and 112th title overall. The Bryans saved one match point en route to the final of the 2016 French Open. However, they were defeated in the final by the all-Spanish pairing of Feliciano López and Marc López.The Bryan Brothers began their grass-court season at the 2016 Stuttgart Open where they were defeated in the semi-finals by Marach and Martin. At the 2016 Gerry Weber Open, the Bryans were beaten in the semi-finals by defending and eventual champions Klaasen and Ram. At Wimbledon, the twins were beaten once again by Klaasen and Ram in the quarter-finals.