After Two Decades of Dominance, The Bryan Bros Call it Quits

Bryan Brothers chest bump Wimbledon 2013

In an unexpected announcement Wednesday evening, Bob and Mike Bryan announced their retirement effective immediately. The twin brothers, known as the “Bryan Bros,” are almost undoubtedly the greatest doubles team of all time. They announced at the end of 2019 that 2020 would be their final year on tour. With COVID-19 getting in the way of their farewell tour, among many other things, the Bryans evidently decided that their best decision was to retire instead of playing their final matches in front of empty stadiums.

Upbringing and Collegiate Career

The identical twin brothers were born in 1978 in Camarillo, California about 50 miles north of Los Angeles. They started their legendary career off strong by winning their first ever tournament in the 10-and-under division at age six. The pair would go on to win over 100 junior doubles titles as a team and both committed to play collegiate tennis at Stanford University in 1996.

They played two years of tennis at Stanford, playing a key role in national championships in both 1997 and 1998. Bob accomplished the incredible feat in 1998 of winning the team championship, individual championship, and doubles championship with Mike. They were also the first pair of brothers to win an NCAA doubles title since 1946. After some wild cards on the ATP tour and appearances in the US Open and their elite collegiate performance, the brothers decided to turn pro.

Bryan Bros in the 2000s

After a few successful years on the Challenger Tour with some match wins at bigger tournaments, the Bryans began to make waves in 2001. They captured their first of their 119 career doubles titles in Memphis and reached the semifinals at Wimbledon, their best Grand Slam result at the time. 2002 was an even better year with five titles, another Wimbledon semifinal, and Mike winning the first Grand Slam of the two in mixed doubles at the US Open with Lisa Raymond, ironically topping Bob and Katarina Srebotnik in the final.

2003 added five more titles for the Bryans, highlighted by their triumph at the French Open. They took the title without dropping a set, a very rare feat in the doubles game. 2003 also marked the season where they held the year-end #1 ranking for the first time. After a successful 2004 season with seven titles though no Grand Slams, the Bryans made all four Grand Slam finals in 2005, winning at home at the US Open for their second Sam. The very next year, by taking both the Australian Open and Wimbledon, the Bryans completed the Career Grand Slam, becoming just the third doubles team in the Open Era to do so. (A fourth has since accomplished the feat.)

With the incredible career resume the Bryans had already compiled, they were just barely getting started. They won a staggering 11 titles in 2007, compiling an incredible 77-9 record. They added another Australian Open title, and won the clinching match in the Davis Cup final for the United States. 2008 brought more success with five titles, including a second US Open, and the third consecutive season of multiple Masters Series titles. After losing the year end #1 for the first time in three years, the Bryans won seven titles in 2009 and ended the year in the top spot, a position they would not give up until 2015. The Bryans ended the decade with 56 titles, including seven Majors, already putting themselves second in the Open Era in both categories.

Bryan Bros in the 2010s

2010 was arguably the pair’s most successful season to date. They reached 11 finals and won every single one. They also captured two Grand Slams and four Masters. After adding two more Slams in 2011, they tied the all-time record of 11 Grand Slams for a doubles team. They would set the record the very next season in 2012 on home turf at the US Open, and added to their collection one of the few things they had yet to accomplish up to this point, taking home the gold medal at the London Olympics.

2013 was one of the best seasons in the history of double s tennis. The Bryans won 11 titles, including five of the nine Masters, and three Grand Slams. They capture the first three Majors of the year, boasting the rare feat of holding all four Grand Slam titles at once. The bar they had set for themselves was ridiculously high, but they continued to check off new feats in the record books. In 2014 they won six Masters titles and another US Open, and had won all 16 “big” tournaments in tennis with wins at all four Grand Slams, the year end finals, 10 Masters (nine current tournaments plus Hamburg which was replaced by Shanghai), and an Olympic gold.

2015 was the first year the Bryans showed signs of slowing down, as they lost the year end #1 ranking, as well as breaking a 13-year streak of winning at least 50 matches and five titles every single year. They managed just seven titles through 2015-2017, a respectable haul for a large majority of teams but far from the peak the Bryans had set. The 2014 US Open would end up being their last Grand Slam victory as a team, though they did reach three finals over those years.

Bob had hip surgery early in 2018, sidelining him for about six months. Mike partnered up with several Americans and found his best success with Jack Sock. Though seeing Bryan/Sock on the scoreline never did look quite right, the pair excelled in the second half of 2018, winning both Wimbledon and the US Open, allowing Mike to stand alone as the most decorated doubles player of all time with 124 titles and 18 Grand Slams, vs the 119 titles and 16 grand slams they won as a team, which are Bob’s only titles. The pair hoped to retire at the 2020 US Open, but chose not to–likely due to the different circumstances of this year’s event as well as COVID-19 risks. They did manage to capture the Delray Beach title earlier this year, which will go down as the pair’s last.

Singles and Mixed Doubles Careers

While having very limited singles careers, Bob enjoyed slightly more success, as he did at Stanford. Mike has a career record of 5-11 while Bob is 21-40, with Bob having the highlights of two singles match wins at Grand Slams while Mike never made it out of qualifying. Mike does have some bragging rights between the two, as they have actually met three times in their career. The three matches all took places when the Bryans were still playing some singles between 1998-2000, with Bob winning the first meeting and Mike winning the latter two.

Bob has the slight edge in mixed doubles with seven titles, with six different partners. Mike owns four titles, three of which he won with Lisa Raymond. They have met twice in Grand Slam finals in mixed doubles, splitting their two meetings. Interestingly, both Bob and Mike fell an Australian Open title short of completing the career Grand Slam in mixed doubles as well. Regardless, their success in mixed truly shows their talent and ability in the doubles game to still succeed without the chemistry and flow that they have playing with each other.

Legacy

Although most accolades have been mentioned already, it is truly impossible to say enough about what the Bryan Brothers did for the doubles game. Doubles has always taken a backseat to singles and it seems to have taken more of a minor role in recent years, but the Bryans almost always took the court to a packed stadium no matter where they were playing. The combination of their talent, twin brother dynamic, now-iconic chest bump, and personality of the court (they front the Bryan Brothers Band that performs at many of their stops) make them beloved by tennis fans across the world. To wrap things up, here is a list of some records that will likely never be broken:

  • 1108 match wins (only one other player has won more than 800)
  • 119 team titles (second is 61)
  • 16 team grand slams (second is 11 with no other team having more than 5)
  • 10 year end #1s
  • Double career slam (only team ever to do this)

The Bryans did what no doubles team has ever come close to doing and did so in a way that captured fans hearts and made them easy to root for. The Bryans will be greatly missed in doubles tennis, but they will live in the history books until the end of time. Unfortunately, they did not get the farewell they deserved, but in these unprecedented times they made the decision they felt was best for them. Although both brothers have families and likely want to spend more time at home, there is always the possibility of a comeback, or at least a treat to a few big tournaments a year to please the fans.

 


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