It’s hard to imagine that at 35, Bob and Mike Bryan are having the year of their lives in 2013, given all of their record-breaking accomplishments and past season performances. But since completing their trophy case with an Olympic gold medal last August in London, the American twins have been able to play with more freedom and in turn, have a shot at becoming the first men’s doubles pair in the Open Era to clinch a calendar-year Grand Slam.
In preparing for the North American summer hard-court swing and ultimately, their bid for history at the US Open, the Bryans once again returned to Mylan World TeamTennis. The No. 1-ranked pair played five matches for the Texas Wild, a franchise they previously competed for when it was in Kansas City. With no-ad scoring and situations where one point can be a game changer, Mylan WTT provided the Camarillo, Calif., natives numerous opportunities to hone their mental fortitude.
“The League keeps us sharp and gets us ready for the summer. We're playing in hot weather, facing good teams in a format similar to the ATP World Tour format,” Mike Bryan told WTT.com. “It's quick and there are a lot of pressure points. It's an exciting format for us. And also, we don't play a lot of tennis in Southern Cal, so that was fun for us to play a match in Orange County.”
Among the stops during their appearances, the Bryans visited the Sacramento Capitals, who are coached by none other than their father Wayne. The Wild topped the Caps 22-19 that evening, with the sons posting a crucial 5-3 win in men’s doubles. Off the court it was all about family as the matchup allowed the three to catch up for the first time in three months.
“We hadn't seen him since April. We hadn't talked about Wimbledon, so we were able to reminisce about the great run we've had,” said Bob Bryan. “There's no extra pressure playing against our dad. I actually feel for him. He's in a very tough spot. He's not able to really coach like he wants to. For him, if his team wins and we win, that's when he's most happy. He's a very active coach, giving tips. I think he holds back a little when we're on the court.”
The Bryans starred at the Wild’s home venue in Irving. During their visit, the two hit with Dallas Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki, a longtime tennis fan, and helped Texas pack the stands at its first-class venue hosted by the Four Seasons and Club Dallas at Las Colinas.
“The site where they hold the home matches is a beautiful venue. Staying at the Four Seasons is like having a vacation. We had great turn outs,” Bob Bryan reflected. “The fans were really rowdy and got behind the Wild. We had a good team this year and the team camaraderie was great. Everyone was gelling and that helps the results. It was our 11th year playing for (co-owner) Jeff Launius. He's really competitive and wants to do just as well.”
Having made their first Mylan WTT appearance in 1999 for the Idaho Sneakers, the Bryans have transitioned from young professionals living the life, to balancing their roles as the faces of doubles and family men. Bob has a family of three, with a second baby on the way, while Mike tied the knot at the end of last season. Finding happiness away from the game has resulted in even greater success on the court.
“It's pretty amazing that ever since I got married, we've had our best run,” joked Mike Bryan. “I'm happy in my personal life. Bob has his baby and sees everything in a better perspective. It can definitely translate to more wins when you feel like you're better-rounded. The ring is the secret.”
As for Bob?
“We would have never dreamt having a season like this, especially at 35 years old. It's all about hard work paying off over the years. We've had so many experiences with wins and losses, and have gained so much knowledge in preparing for tournaments, taking care of ourselves, how to eat right and the knowledge our coach has added to our game, all of that has combined to this great run.
“I also have to attribute it to winning the gold medal. It really has given us a lot of joy and made tennis more fun for us. It feels like everything else is gravy and we're just playing for the love of the game. We've achieved a lot of the records we've wanted to. I feel like we have it all. We love this lifestyle and it's the best job in the world.”
NOTE: The Texas Wild season ended in the Mylan WTT Western Conference Championship where they were defeated by the Springfield Lasers. The Bryan brothers are scheduled to compete in hard court events leading up to the 2013 US Open.