Bob and Mike Bryan flew into Indianapolis on a fiendishly cold Nov. 23 for a charity exhibition match against hometown pro Rajeev Ram and his sometimes doubles partner Tennys Sandgren. The event is called EntouRAJ for Kids, which benefits young tennis players and awards scholarships, this year to six student-athletes.
Before the event's luncheon, I sat down with the Bryans and Ram, their host, for some rapid-fire talk about the state of doubles today, Mardy Fish's future, the ATP World Tour's new CEO, and (of course) what Micaela Bryan will do next. (Spoiler alert: Her little brother is due to be born in the next week.) We also took a long look at 2016, when the bros say they will retire after the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Do you remember the last time you were in Indianapolis?
Mike: Yes. We were here for the RCA Championships.
Bob: I know, but when.
Mike: I’d probably say our last year we played the RCA was … 2001? Is that right?
You are correct, yes. [Indy’s ATP tournament ended in 2009.] So what do you like most about these charity exhibitions? You’ve played a couple of them.
Bob: Yeah, it’s a great way to help out friends. You know, we do a bunch of these a year. We help out Raj and Mardy Fish and Roddick. We exchange favors; they come help out us with ours. It’s a great way to give back and help a great cause. And it keeps us sharp. You know, we play matches, interact with the fans ...
I mean, you haven’t played a match for two weeks. You’re probably getting a little soft.
Mike: That’s why we probably always play our best at the Aussie Open, because we play a bunch of these in the offseason when most guys are putting their racquets down. And we come in hot. I was actually down in Necker [Richard Branson’s island among the British Virgin Islands] playing a pro-am, so I haven’t put the racquets down yet.
Speaking of putting the racquets down, what do you think of Mardy Fish entering some golf tournaments?
Ram: We were just talking about that last night.
Bob: Yeah, we were talking on that last night. I mean, everyone knows Mardy is a talented golfer. We’re all interested to see how he’s going to do out there on the pro tour because we know how tough it is out here on the tennis tour to be successful, and I’m sure golf is no different. It’s going to be, obviously, a big challenge for Mardy. But he’s got some incredible hands. We’ve played against him before, a scramble, it was our best ball against Mardy—and he crushed us. So he’s impressive.
He seems like he knows what he’s doing out there.
Bob: Yeah, he does. U.S. tennis fans obviously want to see Mardy come back and carry the flag for us a little bit longer, because he’s still young. He’s only 31. He’s probably got a couple good years left.
Are you going to play Davis Cup in 2014?
Bob: Yeah, it’s going to be in San Diego, against Great Britain on … clay.
Which probably actually favors you guys.
Bob: Yeah, it’s the first time the U.S. has been on clay [at home] since, uh, ’91.
Bob: Usually it’s our Achilles heel, going over to Europe and playing on the red dirt.
But when it’s the Brits, clay it is. What, with the new ATP chief, do you foresee as the future of doubles? I think you guys have said previously that he’s pretty doubles friendly.
Bob: Yeah, Chris Kermode’s been great for doubles. He’s always done us right at Queen’s, and the World Tour Finals features doubles prominently. It’s almost the biggest stage for doubles, playing there in the packed O2 Arena. So we don’t expect him to put doubles on the backburner, for doubles to take any steps backward. We’ll see what happens. Who knows what his priority is going to be right off the bat?
What do you currently listen to on your iPod? You are friends with the Maroon 5 guys, you play a lot, you do a lot of gigs. What are you listening to?
Mike: We’ve been bringing Dave Matthews back. He took a few years off, but I just signed up for Spotify. And he’s got, like, five new songs on there. And we’ve been searching for some obscure ones. [To Ram] You know Dave …
I was going to say, that’s a very Rajeev Ram answer.
Mike: I mean, I liked Dave Matthews a little bit better when they had LeRoi Moore. It was kind of like a smoother sound.
Bob: I liked when they had Butch Taylor, the piano guy.
Mike: We’ve seen Dave Matthews probably 20 times in concert.
Bob: We were at a concert outside Columbus. [To Ram] And we just saw you there.
Ram: Just randomly. That’s right, that’s right. I do remember that. It was during the Cincy tournament.
Bob: We drove there. It was like, yes. It’s only two hours away. No big deal.
You guys were playing the Cincy tournament, you went to Columbus for the concert, and you drove back to Cincy to play more.
Mike: Oh yeah.
Ram: Yeah, absolutely.
That’s about as good as Serena [Williams] calling off her match and riding a roller coaster.
Bob: [laughs] Yeah.
Mike: I remember we went to see a late-night concert at Riverbend [Music Center in Cincinnati].
Bob: And they put us on at 10 a.m. [the next day].
Mike: Yeah, we were playing a 10 a.m. match, but we got boxed in so we couldn’t pull our car out. And it was like 1 or 2 a.m. You park in these fields, and this guy was blocking us, and we had to wait until like everyone got out of there at maybe 2.
I’m sure that guy was perfectly coherent and sober.
So the question that everyone’s dying to have answered: What’s next for Micaela?
Bob: She’s been quiet on Twitter lately.
Yeah, what’s up?
Bob: She’s got other stuff to do, man. She’s been going to school. She’s got this little brother. He might be the next little Twitter star—Bob Jr. He’s coming in a week.
He’s due in a week? Can we confirm that his name is truly Bob Jr.?
Mike: It’s gonna be Robert … Jr.
Bob: Robert Charles Bryan the 2nd—RCB2. I didn’t want to give him that name, but [wife] Michelle’s got her mind made up.
It sounds like a formula in chemistry.
Mike: It’s cocky.
Ram: Yeah, it’s pretty cocky, isn’t it?
Bob: She’s got her mind made up, and I can’t get her off of it.
[To Ram] Anything you’d like to talk about with this weekend?
Ram: It’s awesome to have these guys here. They do this. They play more matches than most people on tour because they win so much. Just to have them take time here in their offseason, as Bob said he has a baby due in a week …
And here he is in Indy.
Ram: And here he is in Indy. North Carolina tomorrow. It’s pretty cool. They’re definitely flag bearers of American tennis.
Bob: I get more sleep here than I do at home.
I do have one more question: If you guys have a banner season like this one, three Grand Slam doubles titles, in 2016—if you are still looking to the Rio Olympics and finishing well there—would you reconsider retirement after those Olympics, or after that season?
Mike: Yeah, that’d be a good way to go out.
A high, like Pete Sampras?
Bob: It depends how the bills look, with the diapers …
Priorities have changed since you guys started.
Mike: Yeah, we’ll be 38. Mentally, we’re hanging in there. We don’t want to be straining it out too long. If we touch 40 …
Bob: People are already getting sick of us.
Mike: Yeah, they’re sick of our act. Need to get some fresh blood in there. We’ll see, though.
Bob: So you don’t have an answer.
Got a thought, a tip, or a point to make? Hit me on Twitter @jonscott9.