Bryans can't imagine life apart

Updated: April 11, 2004, 2:46 PM ET
By Cynthia Faulkner | ESPN.com

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. -- The Bryan brothers share the same birthday. The same genetic material. The same e-mail address. So what will happen if someday half of the No. 1 doubles team in the world decides to get married?

"We have the same bank account," Mike Bryan told ESPN.com on Saturday. "It all goes into a mosh pit. And, you know, eventually I think we're gonna have to split it up &… I don't know what we're gonna do. I think we'll have to split it right down the middle.

"He's actually dating a girl that makes more money than he does. Might have to be 80/20. But he says he's not working for free."

Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan
Bob and Mike Bryan celebrate each doubles win with the "Bryan Bump."

Well, who could blame him? Just to clarify, and avoid one of those awkward boyfriend-girlfriend discussions, Mike said marriage is still down the road for the 25-year-old twins. But even if they both do tie the knot, Bob Bryan said he and his brother would probably still live together.

"Our house is big enough, it can fit both of us (if we both got married)," Bob said. "I don't know how it would affect things. We're pretty tight, so we'd stay close to each other -- living."

That's a close relationship, perhaps one only other twins can understand.

Good thing their girlfriends seem to like each other. Mike has been dating Anna Paula Alejandre, who is in school studying design, for about 13 months. She lives in Guadalajara, Mexico. Bob Bryan met his girlfriend, JoAnna Garcia, who plays Cheyenne on the WB's Reba, in December.

The women watched the brothers doubles match together in the hot sun on Saturday, JoAnna's long blonde hair standing out in contrast to the dark chestnut of Anna Paula's. When asked if they have many things in common, Anna Paula said, "We're both short," and JoAnna chimed in laughing, "We have Latin in us."

They did share a concern for their "boys" during the match.

"I was really nervous," Anna Paula said. "I was shaking. But it's good that they won."

"Yeah, we're definitely not happy at the beginning of the match," JoAnna said.

They say they cheer equally hard for each brother, although, perhaps without realizing it, they appeared to clap a bit harder when their own guy served.

Mike met Anna Paula at the tournament in Acapulco last year. They're only able to see each other about once a month as she's committed to finishing school and starting her own career. She said she thought it would have been harder than it is.

"It's tough on the girls," Bob said. "We're gone probably 40 weeks out of the year -- at least. That means when we're home, we're training, so we don't get to spend a lot of time with them.

"But, you know, if you find a girl that understands that, it's good."

Bob and JoAnna's matchmaker was Jim Courier.

"We both broke up with our ex-boyfriend, (ex-)girlfriend, and Jim Courier's mom is friends with JoAnna's mom," Bob said. "So they talked, and Jim Courier got wind of it and said, 'I got the guy for her.'

"And then I just sent her kind of like a blind e mail. Then we were talking, you know, online. We went on a blind date like Dec. 4th, then kind of hit it off."

"He's very shy about taking credit for it, but we're gonna have to return the favor for him," JoAnna said, laughing like a woman with a plan. "Matchmaking is now his specialty -- at least as far as I'm concerned."

The brothers share a love for music with Courier. Bob plays the keyboard and Mike the drums and the guitar. They just put in a music room in their California home and say they've been playing music as long as they've been playing tennis, which they began at age 2. Their parents, Wayne and Kathy, are tennis instructors. Kathy Bryan, formerly Blake, reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in mixed doubles in 1965. Because the boys are twins -- Mike is the oldest by two minutes -- they began doing doubles drills at age 6.

"I don't think you'll see junior players out there practicing doubles, so that's why we have a little bit of an advantage," Bob said.

Bob and Mike Bryan
Sibiling rivalry has led to a few broken rackets, but the twins can't imagine not playing together.

Growing up, their parents made them take turns defaulting to one another if they reached the final of the same tournament until they were 16 years old. They went to college at Stanford in 1997-98. In 1998, Bob became the first player since Alex O'Brien in 1992 to win the NCAA "triple crown" of singles, doubles (with Mike) and team (with Mike also helping) titles.

College gave them time to grow mentally and physically, as they only weighed about 140 pounds then. Now, Bob, the lefty, is 6-foot-4, 193 pounds, while Mike, a right-hander, is 6-3, 185 pounds.

Dressed alike on the court in white hats, red shirts and blue shorts during Davis Cup, the racquet hand is often the easiest way to tell them apart. Bob has the bigger serve and Mike is the better returner, although they've been working on improving both.

They thought it would take less time to break out after college. But last year, it finally happened. Three things made the difference: working on two crucial shots, Bob's return and Mike's serve to reduce breaks, switching sides of the court with Bob jumping into the deuce side and Mike on ad, with the final spark coming from new coach, Philip Farmer, just before the French Open.

They won the doubles title at Roland Garros, reached the doubles final at the U.S. Open and won the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup doubles title. They finished the year as the No. 1 doubles players in the world.

Farmer said he's pushing them to be more aggressive at the net.

"They serve big," Farmer said. "They're big guys, a lot of reach. They strike the ball well. They got good touch. I just felt like their movement, they could cross a little bit off each other's good serves and good returns, and just be more aggressive at the net."

Farmer doesn't, at least, need to worry about their communication. Some doubles players come up for consultations between each point, not the twins. The receiving brother sometimes puts a hand behind the back with a signal similar to one a catcher shows a pitcher, but they know each other so well, communication is easy.

"We have a special chemistry between us," Farmer said. "They're not only just, you know, great tennis players and great athletes, but they're true gentlemen, too. That definitely makes me proud to be a part of that chemistry and that situation." When you ask who is the more aggressive or demonstrative on court, the twins agree: It's the other brother.

"Bob's the more aggressive one. I think just his nature, he likes to, you know," Mike trails off, turning to his brother. "You like to get a little angry out there. You crack way more racquets a year."

"No, no, no," Bob interjects. "It takes me ... I can hold it in better. It takes me longer to snap than Mike, but when I snap, I can really get pissed."

"I never punched you on the court," Mike responds. "You punched me." "You hacked me with your racquet that one time, and my knees got &," Bob starts as Mike interrupts, "That's after you socked me in the stomach."

Then, remembering someone is listening, Mike turns to explain. "Bob will be the first one to ... like, we'll go back to the room after a loss and we'll start getting mad at each other. He'll be the first one to throw something. That only happens about once a year.

"But, you know, when you're with each other every day of the year, sometimes the brotherly rivalry can kind of wear on you. And after a tough loss, sometimes we'll just lose it on each other back in the room."

Sometimes frustration on the court with each other causes them to lose focus in a match, too, but that brotherly bickering will never come up in Davis Cup, Bob said. Perhaps that focus can translate to other tournaments and they've been working on not letting it affect them, as their top ranking shows.

"But, you know, it's a long year," Bob said, smiling. "He pisses me off sometimes, so... "It's gonna affect us. We're human."

Although they had posters of Andre Agassi on their walls growing up, they said they also had doubles heroes like Rick Leach and Luke and Murphy Jensen. Although the Bryans don't quite have the Jensen personality on the court, they do the "Bryan bump," knocking their chests together after points. Plus Bob stripped off his shoes and socks after their match Saturday. "I looked back and he was throwing everything," Mike said. "Thought he was gonna take off his shirt."

They had some gaudy numbers to celebrate. With the crowd noise peaking from the first ball hit, the brothers dominated Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

Bob had a 92 percent return percentage, while Mike had 88 percent. Bjorkman's serve deserted him as he got in only 34 percent of his first serves with Johansson making 58 percent, compared to Mike's 75 percent and Bob's 67.

A long line of autograph seekers awaited the brothers afterward, as they signed and signed.

"We get more notoriety for winning a doubles match, you know," Bob said. "Sometimes people can care less if I win a singles match.

Mike says when he looks at their schedule, he puts a star by the weeks where there's a Grand Slam, Davis Cup and, this year, the Olympics. Also, they want to finish the year as the No. 1 doubles players in the world again.

"We want to be No. 1 really bad," Mike said. "Right now, we're having a good year. We're No. 1. We want to keep that up."

"Now that we're doing well in doubles, we don't have time for singles," Bob said. "We're making good enough money where we don't feel we have to play singles.

They sometimes are referred to as doubles specialists, not always a complimentary term in the tennis world.

"If anyone truly knows our games, and has seen us play singles, we're more than doubles specialists," Bob said. "We've both had great wins in singles, we just haven't put the time in that everyone else has."

They could put more time in singles, but say winning in doubles is better because they're doing it together. They said they don't know if they could do what the Williams sisters have done.

"It's hard to go out there and beat up your sibling, especially if you're so close. We're really close," Bob said. "Just because my parents didn't have us play against each other, I never looked at Mike as someone I'm trying to beat, someone I'm trying to get better than. We always just worked together to try to get better."

"Yeah, and then if you're beating your sibling up, I think there's going to be a shift," Mike said. "One's going to be really confident, and the other one is going to lose a lot of confidence.

"If you can't beat your sibling, I mean, how are you going to be No. 1 in the world if you can't even beat the guy in your...

"In your bedroom," Bob finished for him.

"Our record's pretty even," Mike said. "We played maybe 20 times, and we're 10-10, so...

"We've always been pretty even."

Cynthia Faulkner is the tennis editor for ESPN.com.

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