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Thursday, 26 April 2018 09:57 AM BST
Bryans' double act standing test of time
As the Bryan brothers prepare to run 40, delves into the archives to look back at their careers. READ MORE

Roger Federer will not be the only player making his 20th consecutive appearance at The Championships this summer. Just like the 36-year-old Swiss, Bob and Mike Bryan made their main-draw debut at the All England Club in 1999 and have not missed a Championships since.

The American twins, who are the most successful men’s doubles pair in Grand Slam history, are showing few signs of slowing down as they approach their 40th birthdays (on 29 April).

They have just won their 116th title together, at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, having also triumphed in the previous Masters 1000 tournament in Miami last month. They have reached the final in four of their last five tournaments and are already on course to make their 15th appearance in the year-ending ATP Finals in November.

The Bryans have won the gentlemen’s doubles at The Championships three times (in 2006, 2011 and 2013) and were runners-up on four other occasions (in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2014).

“It feels good to play in front of the English fans,” Bob says. “They really appreciate the history of doubles and the great history here at Wimbledon, so you’re playing in front of knowledgeable fans. You feel like they’re enjoying the tennis. That usually brings out better tennis in the players.”

Oddly enough, two other pairs of twins have won more gentlemen’s doubles titles at The Championships than the Bryans. William and Ernest Renshaw won the title five times between 1884 and 1889, while Wilfred and Herbert Baddeley won it four times between 1891 and 1896. Another pair of brothers – who were not twins – hold the record for the most Wimbledon gentlemen’s doubles titles, Laurie and Reggie Doherty having won eight between 1897 and 1905.

The Bryans, who started their famous “chest bump” – which they copied from the Jensen brothers - while playing college tennis at Stanford University in the late 1990s, put their longevity as a team down to the fact that they are twins.

“It’s maybe only the twin relationship that can stand this kind of test of time,” Bob says. “I definitely don’t think just a normal partnership can hold up under this many years of ups and downs and finger-pointing. You need to have the confidence that your partner’s not going to be looking around for someone else after a heartbreak loss.

“That’s what we have. We have that loyalty that no matter how bad I return during a stretch, I know he’s not going to be talking to [someone else].”

Although the Bryans have never won a pure calendar-year Grand Slam, they became the first pair in the open era to hold all four trophies at once. Their victory at The Championships in 2013 completed what was labelled a “Golden Bryan Slam” following their triumphs in the three previous Grand Slam events and the London Olympics.

In their early years the Bryans played singles as well as doubles, Bob reaching No.116 in the world rankings and Mike No.246. Bob beat Bohdan Ulihrach in the first round in his only appearance in singles at The Championships in 2001 before losing to Sjeng Schalken in the second. Mike made his only appearance in main-draw singles at a Grand Slam event at the US Open in the same year, when he lost to Andre Agassi in the first round.

The Bryans made their Championships doubles debut in 1999 and immediately made their mark by getting under the skins of their third-round opponents, Alex O’Brien and Sebastian Lareau, who eventually beat them 10-8 in the final set.

“We were chest-bumping,” Mike recalled. “We were young, showing no respect for the older guys. There were about 20 rain delays where we came back to the locker room. We were sitting right next to them. There were words said. They wanted to kill us basically. They called us ‘cocky punks’.”

It took another six years for the Bryans to reach their first Wimbledon final, in which they lost in four sets to Stephen Huss and Wesley Moodie. The following year they claimed the title for the first time, beating Fabrice Santoro and Nenad Zimonjic in the final to complete their “career Grand Slam” of the sport’s four biggest titles.

The Bryans’ path to that first success at The Championships followed a remarkable fight with each other in the wake of a laboured first-round victory over Amer Delic and Jordan Kerr.

Mike recalled: “We were in the car [going back after the match]. I said: ‘You should have served a little better, Bob.’ He took it personally and said something about my forehand. Then I said something. It just got worse and worse. I just said ‘I hate you’ or something. Then he just gives me a little hit there, then I go there, and it just erupts into a full blown brawl.”

The confrontation continued when they got to their accommodation. “I ran up the stairs and then he slammed the bathroom door right in my face and locked it,” Bob recalled. “I tried to kick it down but I couldn’t get through. I saw his shiny guitar. I picked it up and just splintered it. That felt good and that was the end of it.

In 2011 the Bryans had to win two five-set marathons to reach the final – they won deciding sets 16-14 against Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley and 9-7 against Michael Llodra and Zimonjic – before taking the title with a straight-sets victory over Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau. Two years later they beat Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo in the final to claim the title for the third time.

Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde rewrote most of the men’s doubles record books between1991 and 2000 – the Woodies won 61 titles together including 11 at Grand Slam level – but the Bryans have gone several steps further. Their tally of Grand Slam titles currently stands at 16 and includes six Australian Opens, five US Opens and two French Opens.

Nevertheless the Bryans do not hold the record among current doubles players for consecutive appearances at The Championships. Max Mirnyi has played in two more consecutive Wimbledons than the Bryans, with 15 different partners.

The twins both have one mixed doubles title at The Championships to their name, Bob having won with Sam Stosur in 2008 (when his twin and Katarina Srebotnik were their opponents in the final) and Mike with Lisa Raymond in 2012.

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