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Bryan Brothers Break All-Time Doubles Title Record in Australia

For Bob and Mike Bryan, a 13th Grand Slam title is a testament to their work ethic and the magic it facilitates.

By Chris Oddo

Bryan Brothers chest Bump (January 26, 2012) -- There was a moment, midway through the second set of the Australian Open men’s doubles final, where Bob and Mike Bryan’s quest for a record-breaking 13th Grand Slam title hung in the balance. With their opponents, the Dutch pairing of Robin Haase and Igor Sijsling, closing in on a service break that would level the second set, it was time for a little Bryan magic.

Magic can be subtle on the doubles court; if you blink you’ll miss it. But the Bryans, in the midst of a decade of dominance that has seen them reach a record 23 Grand Slam finals, win Olympic gold medals and Davis Cup titles, seem to have the uncanny ability to summon the magic at precisely the moment it is needed.

They do it so often, and with such ease, that we’ve come to expect it from them. Sometimes we don’t even watch, we just read the headlines a day later, taking for granted the blood, sweat and tears that the twin brothers from Camarillo, Calif., have poured into their careers. Sometimes we watch, but we don’t quite grasp the extraordinary because it seems, on the surface, almost routine. That was the case on this particular break point.

At 4-3, 30-40 in the second set, Mike served out wide and raced in behind his serve as Haase ripped a backhand crosscourt. This was one of the tensest moments of an otherwise breezy match, but Mike moved decisively, almost unconsciously, volleying the ball down the middle in the direction of Haase.

Haase snapped a forehand in the direction of Bob Bryan, who had missed a volley on the previous point when Sijsling ripped a forehand right at him and Bob seemed to be expecting a lob.

But none of that mattered to Bob anymore. Not the last point, not the quest for doubles immortality, not the fact that the stands were less than half full or that midnight was fast approaching in Melbourne.

What mattered was the ball in play, and the position of the two Dutchmen just prior to Bob making contact with the volley. Should he go at one of them? Should he hit a drop volley to lure the pair into the Bryan's domain at the net? Should he go for a clean winner to end the point? In the split second that it took the ball to travel from Haase’s racquet to Bob Bryan’s, somehow Bob’s tennis-centric hard drive completed all the calculations necessary and gave the order to his lightning-quick scissor hands: go down the middle, but shade it to Sijsling's side so that Haase will cut him off like a dunce to try to hit the forehand.

And, voila, the magic had happened. It was a subtle, shrewd play from Bob, made instinctively, yet with the implicit wisdom of a lifetime spent on the doubles court with his brother at his side. The point ended with Haase admonishing himself for having botched the play, for he and his partner both knew that break point chances against the Bryan Brothers in Grand Slam finals are like discovering gold in California: just because it happened once doesn’t mean it will happen again.

And, it didn’t. The Bryans closed out their 6-3, 6-4 victory two games later. It was all over, followed by the chest bumping, the headlines, and the realization of a career-long pursuit to be the best to ever play the doubles game.

“Obviously it feels real good to have that record,” said Mike Bryan afterwards. “To be a part of history is pretty special. We weren’t thinking about it too much out there but now that we have it, it’s going to be fun to look back on our career and say we have the most Grand Slams.”

The Bryans, who shared the all-time lead with John Newcombe and Tony Roche since they won their fourth U.S. Open and 12th Grand Slam title in 2012, can now go about the business of putting some distance between themselves and the rest of the field. “We’re competitors,” said Bob. “We hate to lose. We want to finish No. 1. We set goals to get better, to improve, and to play well at these big tournaments. That’s why we’ll be out here for the next few, three, four more years.”

If there is magic in the Bryan’s racquets (and there clearly is), it isn’t by coincidence. They are the best doubles team in the world because they are willing to work harder and smarter at their games than any other team. They spoke of their work ethic with reporters after the match. “When we lose we go back to the same place and work on what we need to do together to get better,” said Mike.

And how do they account for their success in Australia, a place where the Bryans have won six titles, nearly half of their Grand Slam titles? “I think we’re so successful at this tournament because we spend the off-season mainly in the same spot, working toward the new year. We come into these tournaments with momentum,” Mike said. “Most teams they fly off to different countries, but we’re always pretty much thinking, eating, breathing doubles. We’ve just always had the drive to keep improving over time.”

At 34, nearly ten years removed from their first Grand Slam title, time seems to be something that the Bryans never run out of. In a fast-paced, fast-twitch world where a split-second can reveal a lifetime of desire, the Bryan’s magic is more a product of their drive to win than their serendipity.

“We don’t really go home and talk about our records,” Mike said. “It’s fun to look at our trophies once in a while, but we’re always just trying to push the bar a little higher and get better.”

(Photo Credit: AAP)


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