They’re 39, but no longer No. 1. They haven’t won a Slam since the 2014 US Open, but are still the biggest draw in doubles. They don’t play Davis Cup any more, but they’re still front and center in the doubles conversation. Speaking of conversations, here’s one with this singular doubles team – Bob and Mike Bryan. [CAUTION: This interview includes a really quirky joke.]
INSIDE TENNIS: Talk about your year.
BRYAN BROTHERS: We have been playing well all year, it’s just a matter of piecing it together, and then stringing wins in a row. We’ve had some great matches and then we don’t back it up. But we’re not going out there freaked out that we have to win the title. We’re prepared to win and we just enjoy.
INSIDE TENNIS: How has doubles changed?
BRYAN BROTHERS: It’s changed tactically with the implementation of the I-formation. And the influx of singles players has made for a lot of baseline rallies, which you didn’t see in the ‘80s or ‘90s. There’s a lot more strategy, a lot more specializing in doubles, and the technology has turned it into a very powerful game. Guys play a lot closer to the net. Lobs come into play a bit more. It’s really changed.
INSIDE TENNIS: Is there a doubles guy you look up to?
BRYAN BROTHERS: [Canadian] Daniel Nestor is one guy. He’s set the bar really high for longevity. A lot of guys are seeing themselves playing into their 40s. He’s blazed that trail. You didn’t see that 15 or 20 years ago – 35 was ancient. We turn 40 next year.
INSIDE TENNIS: What’s the best tennis advice you’ve ever gotten?
BRYAN BROTHERS: Our Stanford coach Dick Gould said, “Be proud, but don’t be satisfied.” We take that to heart. Win or lose, we’re always ready to put our hats back on the next Monday and work. We try not to get too content or look back at what we’ve done. We’re proud, but at 39 we’re still trying.
INSIDE TENNIS: Serena is about to give birth. You’re both tennis-playing parents. What suggestions would you give her?
BOB BRYAN: With the first baby, it’s like a little holy grail. You can’t believe it’s still alive every morning. I would just say those things [babies] are durable, man. [laughs] You can leave them alone and look away for a second.
INSIDE TENNIS: So you’re saying a little child abuse here and there is –
BOB’S WIFE MICHELLE: No, no, no, no, no! [Laughs] Not on the record, c’mon!
BOB BRYAN: It’s so funny though, with the first baby it’s like, “Oh, my God, the milk’s been sitting there for 20 minutes, we better throw it out.” Now we find some milk under the bed the next morning and we go for it.
INSIDE TENNIS: OK, enough of that. We’ve already have gotten ourselves in enough trouble. [Laughs] We should get serious. So talk about what Roger has been doing this year.
BRYAN BROTHERS: What Roger’s doing out there at 36 is really far out. If he wins another one – 20 Slams – he should shut it down, but he keeps going.
INSIDE TENNIS: When you’re at the US Open, when do you realize you’re really back in New York?
BRYAN BROTHERS: When it takes 45 minutes to get from the locker room to the sushi because you see so many people from your childhood.