Sports / Tennis

Bryan brothers set for golden farewell

By Reuters (China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-25 07:47

 Bryan brothers set for golden farewell

Legendary doubles team Bob and Mike Bryan will play at their fourth and final Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next month.

Legendary tennis tandem planning splashy exit in Rio

When tennis star Mike Bryan's phone rang recently and the police officer on the other end of the line told him his home security alarm had been activated, his first thought was the fate of the Olympic gold medal he earned with twin brother Bob at London 2012.

It's the most prized souvenir from a trophy-laden career that has earned the 38-year-olds 112 titles together, including 16 Grand Slams.

"We thought someone had broken in, the cops went over and I just said, 'Dude, please just check that one spot' just make sure it's there' - and it was," said the right-handed half of the most successful tandem in men's tennis history.

"It's the only thing I hide when we leave for a trip."

No wonder. Bob describes the triumph in London as the brothers' "greatest moment," while Mike says missing out at Athens 2004, when they were expected to medal, ranks as their worst low.

They won a bronze at the 2008 Games in Beijing.

Rio, where they will play with gold-painted rackets, will be their fourth - and last - Olympics.

Retirement is looming and they want to sign off in style, perhaps with a golden chest bump.

"Rio would be a hell of a way to go out," said Bob, who juggles life on tour with wife Michelle and three young children.

"We know it will be our last Olympics, I can safely say that. It's been a huge priority. When we sat down to plan the year in December, we said peaking for Rio was the goal.

"Winning in Rio would mean everything."

No retirement decision has been taken, said Mike, but "the conversation" could happen depending on what Rio has in store for the hugely-popular California-based brothers whose victory 'chest bump' has become their trademark.

"You have to earn your way on the tour, and you have to blast your way out," Mike said. "No one wants to limp their way off. Pete Sampras had the perfect send-off - he won the US Open and said goodbye."

Amiable off court and a well-oiled machine on it, the Bryans have carried men's doubles for more than a decade.

Ten times they have ended a year as top dogs and they have held the No 1 ranking together for close to 450 weeks in total.

Watching them play is a study in fidgety synchronization.

They are used to being 'hunted' wherever they play, but the Olympics is a whole different ball game, involving players who usually shun doubles competition.

Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will all play doubles in Rio - with Wimbledon champion Murray partnering with brother Jamie, who was recently ranked No 1 in doubles.

"London was the toughest title we've won, and we were so pumped," Bob said.

"There's nowhere to hide in the Olympics, right from round one. You have all the great singles guys, the doubles guys, all the top stars."

Added Miked: "The big four want a medal. No one is going to give it a half-arsed effort. A gold is a gold. That's going on the medal board for your country. It's going to be a stacked field."

While golf has hit the headlines after a slew of Rio no-shows, and several tennis players including the Bryans' fellow Americans John Isner and Sam Querrey will be absent, the brothers' eyes light up just thinking about the Olympics.

"It's bigger than the game of tennis," Mike said.

Bob agreed, adding: "I remember after London it didn't hit us until about two weeks later when we were driving in Cincinnati. Then I sort of yelled 'Yeah!' at the top of my lungs.

"We were like 'Oh man! this is nuts'. We ended up having one of the best summers of our career."

So popular were the medals that Mike described his as a 'celebrity' in its own right while Bob's was so in demand it picked up battle scars.

"When I took the medal out people flocked to it," Mike said. "It was wild. It was like Lord of the Rings. It was crazy."

Bob even pulled a dirty trick on his brother.

"His was all shiny, the ribbon was perfect so I did a switcheroo," he said. "He didn't realize it for over a year."

Whatever happens in Rio, their careers will be forever entwined. For the brothers, it's either together or never.

"You could go and make some dough with someone else," Bob teases his brother, "Just cut me in."

"No, no, we are a package deal. We came in together, we'll go out together," Mike said.

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