WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — Bob and Mike Bryan aren't having the 2020 sendoff season they imagined, not even close. They're trying to make the most of tough situation by competing for the Las Vegas Rollers in World TeamTennis.
But that's not even going like they imagined. In men's doubles action, the Americans haven't performed as expected with five losses and four wins. At least Tuesday night saw a slight shift in momentum. With the Bryans playing the last set of the night and Las Vegas down 17-16 to Orange County, the brothers cleaned up in a 5-2 win to seal a come-from-behind 21-19 team victory.
"We’ve been playing the anchor for so many years in team tennis, so it doesn’t really phase us too much," Bob Bryan says. "We haven’t been playing amazing, so we were looking to start a little run here for the team."
The Bryans have played WTT for two decades. (Ryan Loco)
The run wouldn't pick up any speed as the Rollers faced the Freedoms on Wednesday night. As the "home" team, Philadelphia got to choose the order of sets (there are five: men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles). It wouldn't matter much with Philadelphia winning every set for a 22-14 victory, improving to 7-1. The Rollers are now 4-5, but there's still a lot of tennis left to be played.
It might not feel like it, but the Bryans have already had nearly two weeks already to settle into life at The Greenbrier, and have made it a family affair. Mike Bryan brought along his newborn son Jake, and his wife Nadia. Bob Bryan had to leave his three young children at home in Florida so he's turned on Uncle Bob mode.
"I have a newfound respect for what Bob's done the last five to eight years with the kids on the road, because I just brought Jake to his first plane ride over here to West Virginia, and it's not easy," Mike Bryan says. "You have him here, he's crying, you don't know what to do. You want to just take care of them. And the priorities are shifted. It's not always about going to the gym, taking care of the body. You want to take care of your little ones."
Mike Bryan welcomed his first child in April. (Ryan Loco)
The twins have been to the Greenbrier before, having played an exhibition in Creekside Stadium last September and loving it so much they vowed to return for vacation. The COVID-19 pandemic meant a return to the resort sooner than imagined for the opposite of time off.
"This couldn’t be any better," Bob Bryan says. "We’re used to traveling all over the country for the three weeks of team tennis. A lot of red eyes, a lot of Waffle House, late nights. And we’re just settled in, we're rested. We’re playing a lot for matches in a row, but we feel good."
The rest of the Las Vegas team hasn't felt as good. Asia Muhammad has been out with a shoulder injury, while Monica Puig was dealing with a sore ab. They needed alternate Hailey Baptiste to step in during a loss to San Diego on Saturday, and brought in Ajla Tomljanovic for Tuesday night's win over Orange County.
It's a team effort, but it's the Bryans that people are eager to see. They have played two decades of WTT and are two of the most experienced, most loved members of the 2020 field.
"You're talking about the greatest doubles team of all time," Vegas coach Tim Blenkiron says. "I think part of the understanding of coaching players of that magnitude is realizing you can't actually bring that much to the table, and just trying to be there in any way, shape, or form that they need. But I mean, a complete honor."
Even opponents like Philadelphia's Fabrice Martin are a huge fan.
"They're still out there [at 42]," Martin says. "When you see them after all the matches, all the tournaments they play, they still have fun and they still enjoy playing. They're great guys."
Martin would team with Donald Young to beat the Bryans 5-4, and pair with Taylor Townsend to upset Bob Bryan and Tomljanovic.
"It's always good to beat them, but it was a very close match," Martin says. "We all played great. It gives you confidence always. They are the best team in the world."
Even at a ranking of No. 27, the Bryans give that impression. They deserve the respect, having won 16 Grand Slams and 119 titles together, as well as an Olympic gold medal in London in 2012. In November, they announced that 2020 would be their final year, but the COVID-19 shutdown might alter those plans, which would have seen them retire at the US Open.
The former No. 1's have missed out on their farewells stops in Indian Wells, Miami, Roland Garros and Wimbledon, to name some notable events. They would also have gone to Tokyo for the Olympics.
"Still our greatest trophy," Bob Bryan says of his 2012 gold medal. "It's the one that everyone wants to hold when they come to the house. And for us, it led to a lot of great stuff because we were just so happy. Nothing could get us down after that, and it lasted for a couple of years after."
The brothers haven't confirmed if they will play in New York or if they will continue into 2021 to play one more Olympic Games. If the US Open takes place as planned and the Bryans play, they might be saying farewell to no fans. It doesn't feel like an appropriate note to end on.
For now, fans can still see more from the Bryans at least until July 29, with only four teams making the playoffs.
For more photos, videos, results and live action from World TeamTennis, go to WTT.com.