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Bryans win Wimbledon for the family

July 2, 2011 05:30 PM
Bob Bryan (L) and Mike Bryan celebrate after winning the men's doubles title.
By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com

-- The Bryan brothers' 11th Grand Slam record-tying doubles title at Wimbledon came in a rush. Rain played havoc with their first-week schedule, so much so that they had to play their third round, quarterfinals, semifinals and final in four consecutive days.

Their third-round victory was a 16-14 in-the-fifth-set marathon over Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley. Their 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 quarterfinal win over Jurgen Melzer and Philip Petzschner seemed like a walk in the park because in the semifinals they almost experienced one of the greatest implosions of their careers: up two sets to love over Nenad Zimonjic/Michael Llodra, they allowed their rivals to come back, went down 4-1 in the fifth set and grew angry at each other. For a few moments, the twins looked like they might come to blows.

"We knew that the final is the next day; we wanted to finish it off in straights," Mike said. "We had three match points in the third-set breaker. They were weird match points. One Bob hit around the net pole. It was just crazy. So we were getting pretty frustrated.

Bob added that they "starting chirping a little bit to each other."

"Yeah, started talking to each other. I'm never going to play with you again," Mike said with a laugh. "And then, you know, just a little bit of luck at 4-2."

That luck was when they broke back because it was entirely unexpected, given that the Serbian and Frenchman were dominating on serve.

"I started putting my towels in my bag on the changeover because I didn't want to forget my extra towel," Mike said. "I have 15 of them, but I got a lot of friends back home. Once I started doing that, we hadn't broken in over an hour and a half, two hours, so I didn't think we were going to break again."

But the so-called chirping actually loosened them up, as Court 1 became quiet and they were able to focus. Eventually they closed out the match 9-7 in the fifth. Some 24 hours later, they came off court with their second Wimbledon crown after a sterling performance when they overwhelmed Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6, in the final.

They could recall the fortnight's big moments but not every one. The Camarillo-born brothers remembered returning from the courts at 10 at night, getting massages, taking ice baths, going to sleep, waking up and going back to the courts for early-afternoon matches. As they said, they were scraping and clawing. But it was well worth it, as the 33-year-olds tied the Australian pair of Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde with 11 majors.

"This is a Wimbledon title. This is as special as it gets," Mike said. "I always thought we'd play our best at Wimbledon, and we've lost three heartbreaking finals. To get on that board again, to have two Wimbledon titles, is really special. And then to equal the Woodies, a team that we idolized, the greatest team in our mind, is unbelievable. But it's all a blur. This week was just so quick."

The Bryans own a record 73 doubles titles and have no plans to stop, even discussing playing until they are 40. Their lives have changed, as Bob was married last December to his girlfriend Michelle Alvarez and moved to Florida, and Mike is in a long-term relationship with Britain's Lucille Williams. The four of them travel together, and the two weeks at Wimbledon have been a little crowded.

"It's not easy for everyone living together," Bob said. "It's not natural for the girls. They have to be twins pretty much because they're hanging out nonstop. But this week it was smooth. It's not going to change for a while. We're going to be in this meat grinder for another four or five years."

The identical twins have done just about everything together since they came out of the womb, but the right-handed Mike is behind the left-handed Bob when it comes to settling down. But the pressure is on.

"I've got a limited amount of time," Mike said.

Bob added, "Shot clock is running down."

Mike replied, "End of the year is going to get hairy."

The Bryans are family guys, frequently lauding their parents Wayne and Kathy for their dedicated parenting. But after winning Wimbledon, they gave a shout out to their grandfather, who is nearly 90 years old and just went in for serious surgery on Wednesday. Even though they didn't grow up as tennis fans, he and their grandmother follow every moment of their grandsons' careers.

"He went in the hospital, so this one was for him," Bob said. "Right before he went in for the surgery, we won that 16-14 in the fifth. I know he was really scared to go in, and he's like, 'Take me, I don't care.' We feel like in some certain way, we're keeping them going with our tennis. My grandma has marked off every point we ever played in our whole career, which is wild. She's got a stack of yellow note pads this deep. Whatever we can do to keep them happy, give them a little joy."


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