Bob and Mike Bryan, who beat Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-4, 7-6 (2) last Saturday, to capture the Olympic doubles gold medal last for the first time, are playing some of their best tennis at the ages of 34 and show no signs of slowing down. Renowned coach Paul Annacone reveals three reasons why.
1. THEY KNOW THEIR ROLES
“The best doubles teams consist of players whose skills balance each other and who know their role in the duo,” Annacone says. “Bob and Mike Bryan are good examples of this—Mike is a little more steady and solid, while Bob, who has a big lefty serve and a stronger forehand, is the more explosive of the two. These differences aren’t huge, but they allow the brothers to help each other out during points. Another thing to consider in pairing up is personality— fiery players often work well with calmer types.”
2. THEY WORK TOGETHER
“Good doubles players like Mike and Bob understand that a big part of success in the two-on-two game is a willingness to select shots that will play to their partners’ strengths. For those accustomed to singles, that can be a challenge. You should also look at the sides of the court from which you and your partner return serve. Because six of the eight game-winning points—40-0, 0-40, 40-30, 30-40, ad-in and ad-out—are served to the ad side, the steadier player, and not necessarily the player with the best backhand, should return from that position. You’ll put more returns back into play in the long run, which should translate to more breaks of serve.”
3. THEY COMMUNICATE
“The Bryans talk before and after every point to set up plays. The basic information you should communicate to your partner is where you plan to put your serve or your return, and what you want your partner to do after that. You might say, ‘I’m going to serve up the middle, and you cross,’ or, ‘Hit the return at the net person and I’ll lean toward the middle.’ The Bryans also communicate enthusiasm well. They bring great energy to the court and always help each other stay positive. You’ll rarely see one of them grimace when the other makes a mistake. Nor will you see either of them express displeasure with the way the other is playing.”
Originally published in the November/December 2011 issue of TENNIS.