10 Things You Didn’t Know About Olympic Tennis Players Bob and Mike Bryan
The 2012 US Olympic tennis team roster — which includes Serena and Venus Williams and Andy Roddick just to name a few — reads like a who’s who of the sport. But to casual fans, brothers Bob and Mike Bryan may not be as instantly recognizable.
And yet, they’re the sport’s most successful doubles team in history, and they’re back again this year to add gold to their bronze medal win in Beijing in 2008.
Check out 10 things you may not have known about this tennis-playing duo below.
FAST FACTS ABOUT THE BRYAN BROTHERS
Mike was born in Camarillo, CA, on April 29, 1978 and Bob followed two minutes later. Mike is six feet, three inches tall and weighs 192 pounds. Bob is six feet, four inches tall and weighs 202 pounds.
Their official website is here, their Facebook page, with more than 21,000 likes, is here and their individual Twitter accounts are here (Mike) and here (Bob).
THEY’RE IDENTICAL TWINS
The Bryan brothers are identical twins who finish each other’s sentences and reportedly can even sense when the other is in danger. Rumor has it they’ve even occasionally shared a toothbrush and have some sort of innate ability to communicate, which is what makes them so scary good on the court.
Until age 6, the brothers slept in the same bed and were rarely apart. In the first grade, their parents sent them to speech therapy after developing what Mike called an “alien twin language.”
But despite their shared DNA, the brothers insist they’re different. Mike says he’s more “organized and mathematical” than Bob, who he describes as an “artistic” type who likes to record music and paint.
BUT THEY LEAD SEPARATE LIVES
Although the brothers lived together for years, shared hotel rooms when traveling and dreamed of raising families in the same house, they’ve begun to establish different lives recently.
In December of 2010, Bob married attorney Michelle Alvarez and they, along with their five-month-old daughter, now reside in Sunny Isles Beach, FL. Mike, meanwhile, will wed Lucille Williams, an event planner from Wales, in November of this year. They currently live in the brothers’ hometown of Camarillo.
Although the two were inseparable up until recently, Mike realizes that Bob’s priority is his wife and new baby girl. “His priorities have shifted and I come third in his life now,” said Mike. “Like, he’s going down to be with his family tonight. It’s cool. I’m loving experiencing [it]. I’m part of his life, and I’m doing the uncle thing pretty often.”
THEY HAVE A COOL SIGNATURE MOVE
The twins often celebrate winning match points with a trademark victory move — a flying chest bump. Although they make it look effortless, the showy move sometimes has painful consequences, and resulted in a badly sprained ankle and broken sternum in the past. Who knew playing to the crowd could be so dangerous?
THEY PLAY IN A ROCK ‘N ROLL BAND
The Bryans’ passion isn’t just limited to tennis. They also front a rock ‘n roll band called The Bryan Brothers Band and released a four-song debut album in 2009 called ‘Let it Rip.’ Bob played bass and keyboard on the record, Mike manned the drums and singer/songwriter David Baron provided vocals, piano and guitar.
The brothers have been playing music since childhood, and were encouraged by their father, who played with members of Beach Boys while in high school. “My dad didn’t let us watch TV. He took it right out of the house. So when we got home from tennis, we had a lot of time to practice,” said Mike.
THEY AREN’T RIVALS
When they were young, the twins tended to dominate singles competition in youth tournaments, and their parents were afraid that they would grow up as rivals.
“We didn’t want them feeling like they had to go through their brother to get to the final of tournaments,” said their mother, Kathy. “We didn’t want one to seem better than the other.”
So, their parents encouraged the twins to forfeit when they faced off in competitions. “We just had one of them default to the other,” said Kathy. “They were fine with that. They completely accepted it.”
THEY HAVE A SPONSORSHIP WITH CITIBANK
The Bryans have a sponsorship deal with Citibank and have filmed several memorable TV spots. But their involvement with the major international bank goes well beyond amusing ads. The brothers partnered with Citibank to raise money for the “Tennis in the Parks” initiative, which brings the sport to kids who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to play.
The Bryans are also two of 13 athletes that Citibank is sponsoring as part of the “Every Step of the Way” program, which allows fans to allocate Citibank ThankYou Points to sports programs via Facebook and Twitter.
THEY’RE ONE OF THE BEST DOUBLES TEAMS EVER
The Bryans’ success on the court is staggering. They’ve been ranked the world’s number one doubles team for longer than any other in history. They also have more than 75 tournament titles, including 11 Grand Slam Men’s Doubles championships and a bronze in Beijing. In August of last year, they won their 700th career match by defeating Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco at the 2011 Rogers Cup.
THIS MAY BE THEIR LAST OLYMPICS
Pro tennis players have a relatively short shelf life, and at 34 years old, it’s unlikely the twins will play in the 2016 games in Brazil. Plus, married life and family are now emerging as higher priorities.
“In our 20s, nothing would come between our career,” Bob said. “We wouldn’t change our schedule to fly home to see our girlfriends.”
“That doesn’t mean we still don’t hate to lose,” he continued. “We still don’t sleep for three days after a loss. But having a baby and Mike being engaged has put stuff in perspective. It feels like you’re working out here for a bigger team.”
THEY HAVE A DIFFERENT MINDSET FOR LONDON
The brothers experienced a frustrating setback when they were shut out of the 2004 games in Athens. Despite being the top seed, they lost in the quarterfinals to Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu of Chile, which upset them so much they left the games immediately and flew back home.
But they rallied in 2008 and won a bronze, easing some of the pressure they felt to medal at the Olympics. As a result, they’re approaching the games in London with a totally different perspective.
“It takes a lot of pressure off us, knowing we have that medal in the trophy case,” said Bob. “We’ll have the same kind of enthusiasm, but there won’t be that same kind of burn that we don’t have a medal. We’d obviously love to get the gold, but winning the bronze took away a lot of the bitterness.”