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For Bryans, a Golden Slam in sight at Wimbledon

July 4, 2013 03:09 PM
Bob (right) and Mike Bryan do their trademark chest bump celebration after beating India's Rohan Bopanna and France's Edouard Roger-Vasselin Thursday in the men's doubles semifinals. With a win on Saturday, the Bryans would hold all four Slam titles.
By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com

WIMBLEDON, England –
Term it whatever you will, but if Bob and Mike Bryan go on to win Wimbledon on Saturday, they will have completed the first men’s doubles "Golden Slam" –  holding four consecutive major titles plus the Olympic gold medal.
 
The only player in history to do that was Steffi Graf in 1988, and she is considered by many to be the best women’s singles player ever. Mike Bryan said that they began to think about the concept after they won the French Open – sort of.
 
"Probably after Roland Garros, but I don't even think we were thinking Golden Slam, like we have a chance to get the Slam," he said after he and Bob toughed out a 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 over Rohan Bopanna and Edourd Roger-Vasselin in the semifinals. "I don't know what you want to call it. I've been hearing the Bryan Slam. Now you call it the Golden Slam. It's pretty cool, definitely a great opportunity to do something a team's never done before. We're just going to go out there and have fun. There's not a huge amount of pressure. We're going to try to go out and win the Wimbledon title, which we've done before."
 
Last year at Wimbledon, the Bryans were stunned by the makeshift team of Britain’s Jonny Marray and Denmark’s Fredrik Nielsen. So even though they entered the 2013 semifinals without having dropped a set in their previous matches, they were very wary. Men’s doubles on grass courts is all about big serves, huge returns and rapid-fire exchanges at the net.
 
"Grass court doubles is a war," Bob Bryan "You got to really keep your head, because like we saw out there today, we were creating opportunity after opportunity, and Bopanna was just hitting chalk all day long. It would have been very easy to get frustrated and go away, but I think it just kind of shows how well we compete in these matches."
 
The twins have won their last eight five-setters at Wimbledon, but of course Bob, who has long memory, recalls when they lost their first five-setter at the All England Club against former US doubles standout Alex O’Brien and Canada’s Sebastien Lareau, 10-8 in the fifth set in 1999.
 
When they won their last Wimbledon title two years ago, they pulled off a 16-14 in the fifth set win over Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley, as well as a 9-7, fifth-set victory over Michael Llodra and Nenad Zimonjic in the semis.
 
The Bryans travel with their wives, Bob’s toddler daughter as well as their coach David Macpherson, but unlike a lot of star singles players, they don’t bring along a physio. While the 35-year-olds say that recovery is very important to them these days and they make sure to sink into ice baths after matches and get massages, they prefer not to bring another full-time person on the team. However, they do travel with compression machines, called NormaTec
 
"You put these sleeves on your legs and it inflates these different chambers up your legs," said Mike. "That's our secret."
     
The Bryans have said over the years that one of the keys to their success is that they have stuck together through thick and thin. They note that new teams can be dangerous, as they are less predictable, and also said that teams about to break up can be threatening because they play more freely knowing the end is in sight.
 
But those kinds of teams don't own a record 14 Grand Slam men’s doubles titles and 90 crowns overall. Even brotherly duos haven’t had the success of the California natives.
 
"The sibling relationship might not even hold up under this amount of travel and stress," Bob said. "It's maybe only the twin relationship that can stand this kind of test of time. I definitely don't think just a normal partnership can hold up under this many years of ups and downs and finger pointing – unless you have the confidence that your partner's not going to be looking around for someone else after a heartbreak loss. We have that loyalty that no matter how bad I return during a stretch, I know he's not going to be talking to [Canadian doubles standout Daniel] Nestor and texting Nestor."
 
Next, the Bryans will face a new-fangled team, Marcelo Melo and Ivan Dodig, who are playing in their Grand Slam final.
   
Right now the Bryans are on a 26-match winning streak, feel like they are battle-tested and, if they manage to hoist the trophy and complete the "Bryans Golden Slam," it will be their most remarkable achievement to date.
 
"It doesn't happen every day," Mike said. "I would be really cool to say that we've had a couple records. To add this on top would just be really sweet. I don't think we're ever going to have a shot to do it again."
 
But Bob knows that even if they do win the title, they will have another immediate task on their hands – winning the 2013 US Open and completing the traditional, calendar-year Grand Slam – a feat accomplished just once by a men’s team in tennis history, by Ken McGregor and Frank Sedgman, in 1951.
 
"We'll be answering questions about that," said Bob. "When we won the [US] Open last year, we thought we broke the record, but it was the Open era Grand Slam record. These types of records and achievements, there's a lot of 'em. They're always out there. This one's extra cool. There will always be something else to do."

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For more Pro Tennis coverage, including coverage of Americans at the 2013 Wimbledon, go to the USTA.com Pro Tennis page.
 
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