They were supposed to walk off the court in New York City to a deafening ovation, surrounded by family and waving to an adoring US Open audience, preferably with their final piece of championship hardware in tow. But the cruel fates of 2020 worked against the master plan, and instead we bid farewell to Bob and Mike Bryan, more affectionately known as the "Bryan Bros," without the fanfare that the duo so richly deserved.
This week, the most successful doubles tandem in tennis history will depart the game with 119 titles. They appeared in thirty Grand Slam doubles titles, winning 16 of them. They notched two Olympic medals – following their 2008 bronze with a gold medal four years later – along with a Davis Cup victory with Team USA in 2007.
Locally, the boys from Camarillo are firmly planted on the Mount Rushmore of Tennis is Southern California, winning countless trophies and medals at the junior level. They were perennial favorites in national competition as teenagers, dominating a trio of prestigious events in 1995 – the 18s USTA National Doubles title, the 18s National Clay Court Doubles title, and the junior doubles crown at The Ojai. A year later, they were US Open junior doubles champions on the road to Stanford. They played two years with the Cardinal. They won two NCAA titles. Enough said.
It would take pages of colorful detail to fully describe their pro career success, two decades of worldwide touring that made Bob and Mike one of the most beloved tandems in the game. On home turf, they won six Los Angeles Open titles between 2001 and 2010, and later advanced to five ATP Indian Wells Masters finals, winning in 2013 and 2014. Appropriately, the Bryans final Grand Slam trophy would be earned in 2014 at the US Open.
Even once did they play against each other in a major final, the mixed doubles championship at Wimbledon in 2008. And here’s a fun fact – only one male player (John McEnroe) has more total career championships (156) than the Bryan Brothers (Mike at 128, Bob at 126).
But it was their ability to connect with fans across the globe that made the Bryans truly successful. Their on-court chest bumps were supplemented by the melody of their musical prowess, on display each year on the BNP Paribas Open stage and beyond. They appealed to fans young and old who dreamed of mirroring the twins’ energy in a USTA League match or tennis club pick-up game. They were everymen who did extraordinary things.
Through their Foundation work and charitable endeavors, the brothers have rightfully established themselves as athletes worthy of admiration, helping promote and develop doubles tennis throughout the country. In Southern California, the Bryan Bros. Doubles Race supports and honors boys and girls who earn competition points during the year, its eventual winners awarded with a chance to meet and greet with the most prolific team of all time. In return, they asked only for teamwork, good grades, and exemplary sportsmanship.
Bob and Mike will undoubtedly be the greatest doubles team of most of our lifetimes. While records are made to be broken, it will take a special pair to ascend past the accomplishments of the Bryan Brothers. Someday, perhaps decades from now, that magical team will come along to build a legacy that rivals or even exceeds the boys from Camarillo. People will say, “These two are just like the Bryan Brothers.”
And that will be the biggest compliment they could ever ask for.