MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.—Bob and Mike Bryan are back where they belong: deep into the draw of a big tournament. On Wednesday, the five-time Miami Open champions comfortably moved past Denis Shapovalov and Rohan Bopanna, 6-3, 6-4, to book their place in yet another semifinal.
The 40-year-old Americans have come a long way. Not just in their esteemed careers, but over the last 12 months. In last May's Madrid final, Bob went down with an injury that necessitated hip replacement surgery (the same procedure Andy Murray underwent). He was back on court in January, and the twins won Delray Beach a month later.
While Bob was home rehabbing, and spending time with his family of five, Mike was carrying the Bryan torch on tour. He won Wimbledon, the US Open and the ATP Finals, all with Jack Sock, and finished world No. 1. But Bob had no reason to ever worry he'd be replaced full time.
"I've always wanted to pick up right where we left off last year. I was just waiting it out," Mike said. "Luckily, I found a pretty good partner. There was no question about it, we are a package deal. It's always the Bryan Bros. It's good to have him back full strength."
While away, Bob supported his brother even more fully, knowing he still has the edge in Grand Slam titles.
"He's got more—if you count mixed," Mike said.
Bob has won seven mixed Slams on top of his 16 doubles Slams with Mike. Mike Bryan has won four mixed Slam, 16 doubles Slams with Bob and two with Sock.
"Twenty three to 22," Bob said. "I'm still the big dog."
Twenty-three matches Serena Williams' Slam total—as long as you don't count her 16 doubles Slams and mixed Slams. Bob is also copying Serena's style. Since surgery, Bob has been wearing full-length black tights on court. In most of her matches since her own comeback, Williams has donned long stockings, albeit in a more subtle, fish-net style.
"The tights look good; they're cute," Mike said. "He keeps nice and warm. It's quite a remarkable surgery, science has come a long way."
If anything, Bob may have the advantage. After decades on tour, no athlete's hips will be feeling great. Just ask Murray, or Ivan Lendl.
"The surgeon says it's cemented in there pretty good," Mike said. "I don't think Bob can do any damage. He's taken a couple of dives and he's not sore the next day."
"Forty is tough, we're taking it one tournament at a time," Bob added. "I'm eight months post-op. Now I'm improving and Lendl–who has two fake hips—says I'm going to be improving through two years."
In Miami, the Bryans are seeking their first ATP Masters 1000 title together since last year in Monte Carlo. They play the top seeds Marcelo Melo and Lukasz Kubot on Thursday.
Regardless of the result, it sounds like the Bryans have a bigger goal as their careers, at some point, wind down.
"Me coming back with two fresh hips next year," Mike said, jokingly. "No, we want to go out playing some good tennis. I feel like we haven't slowed down.
"We had a great start to the year. I think we're back to where we were last year. We'd like to go out with a big one."