Bryans win Indian Wells, answer McEnroe's doubles criticism
The Bryan brothers had a lot of reasons to feel extra satisfied with their doubles victory at Indian Wells.
After winning their first Indian Wells' title in 15 attempts last year, they now have back-to-back wins to show it was no "fluke," observed Mike Bryan.
The twins from Camarillo, California also value winning the closest thing they have left to a 'hometown' tournament. But their victory was also seen as helping to uphold the legitimacy of doubles, coming in a high-profile competition filled with both established doubles teams and top singles players.
The issue has been a sore point following John McEnroe's remarks about doubles at an offseason exhibition last year. McEnroe, who won nine Grand Slam doubles titles, criticized the quality of present doubles game and suggested removing it from the tour.
"I think it's just one person's talk, but unfortunately he's got a pretty big platform to speak off of it. So, yeah, those comments are still swirling around," said Bob Bryan.
"It's nice to see the doubles players playing well. It's nice to see the health of doubles. The atmosphere and the crowds were off the charts this week. You know, playing packed houses over on Court 2 and these blockbuster match-ups between seasoned doubles specialists with sharp volleys versus the ball striking of the singles players, I think has really taken well with the fans.
"Feels like here in Indian Wells they really are appreciating it. It made us feel good."
Among the attention-grabbers in the doubles draw were Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka, Andy Murray, Milos Raonic and Ernests Gulbis, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Nicolas Mahut, and John Isner and Sam Querrey.
The singles players scored some notable wins, with Federer-Wawrinka and Isner-Querrey reaching the semifinals, and Tsonga-Mahut taking out the top team of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic (though Mahut is an established doubles player himself).
Tournament scheduling means many top singles players enter the doubles at Indian Wells — they typically get a day off between their best-of-three set singles matches and have mid-week starts at Indian Wells and the following event at Miami. Doubles matches involving the big names also tend to draw large crowds from among the tennis-savvy spectators who attend Indian Wells.
But McEnroe is unlikely to be convinced, suggested Mike Bryan. The Bryans played John and Patrick McEnroe in an exhibition at Madison Square Garden last month, a meeting which took on an extra edge following John McEnroe's remarks.
"Doubles, why we are even playing [it] is a mystery to me," McEnroe had said. "Most of you know I love doubles but I don't even recognize what they are playing.
"Would the Bryan brothers have made it as singles players? No. What do you think they are playing doubles for?
"I like them and single-handedly they are trying to keep doubles going. But sometimes I hear people saying they are the greatest doubles team [in history]. I'm like, "Excuse me?"
The Bryans have won a record 15 Grand Slam titles and 95 titles as a team. But few players now play both top singles and doubles regularly, with men's doubles dominated by veteran specialists.
"We have spoken to him a few times about it. He's got his point, and, you know, we have our opinion. You know, he's pretty firm with his opinion," said Mike Bryan.
"Doubles has really evolved over the last 30 years," said Bob Bryan. "I mean, the '80s it was primarily crosscourt returning. Not a lot of poaching. Serve and volley tennis, there was serve and volley tennis in singles, and you basically took your singles game into the doubles and it flowed right in and you didn't have to change strategies.
"The '90s with the Woodies [Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge], you saw more poaching and a little more I formation, and now you have this big serving, big returning guys on top of the net and all sorts of strategy.
So it's just evolved. You know, I think Mac probably doesn't understand the way it's played now and doesn't appreciate it like we do."