The Bryan brothers are about as American as apple pie. Born and raised in California, their tennis legacy will live forever as the best history will have to offer.
But they ran out of lives at this year’s US Open.
The twins lost in their first round match yesterday to an unseeded team of Americans: Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-3. It was Bob’s and Mike’s earliest exit since 2011, when they also lost in the opening round.
Defending champions and attempting to capture their sixth title on home soil — and 17th major doubles title overall — their 2014 victory marked their 100th career title. Yet, 2015 has not lived up to their lofty expectations; they will finish 2015 slamless, a first since 2004.
“The stars didn’t align for us in the majors this year,” Bob Bryan said. “It was bound to happen at some point, but it was a good 10-year run. We’ll set some new goals for the end of the year; it’s all we can do.”
The Bryans may have lost another chance at glory, but the fans have lost arguably just as much. What the tournament has truly lost is a team that can fill any stadium at the Flushing Meadows site; when they’ve played on Grandstand or Louis Armstrong the raucous could carry all the way to Citi Field, home of the Mets.
People, especially Americans, just love the boys — as they are sometimes labeled.
They can’t tell which is Mike and which is Bob at times. And it doesn’t matter. Two move as one, as graceful and powerful as a dancing duo — with a shared intuitive sense that leaves fans flabbergasted. Their chest bumps can send thrills through a crowd and spike the entertainment value through the roof.
But with Johnson and Querrey — two keen singles players who’ve found success together in reaching the semifinals of Brisbane and Miami — challenging Mike and Bob, it took the full three sets to bring down the men’s best doubles team.
“That’s the way it goes out here,” Mike explained during a press conference at Citi Open, in Washington D.C. earlier this summer. “You lose a 3-all point or you double fault, and it can turn really quick. The margins are so fine, you need a little bit of luck.”
The season looked hopeful, particularly they approached the last slam of the year. They won the BB&T tournament in Atlanta, Citi Open, and Rogers Cup for their 109th career title.
After all, the Bryans also struggled throughout the spring and summer in 2014, but caught fire and won the last five big titles of the year, ending at No. 1 in the world for the 10th time.
As they said in D.C., “We’re hoping that history repeats itself.”
In addition to their loss, fellow top seeds Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo lost their first round encounter against the unseeded team of Daniel Inglot of Great Britain and Robert Lindstedt of Sweden. The scoreline for the No. 2s of 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-4 was not too far from that of the Bryan brothers.
The Bryans have been the team to beat in New York for over a decade — and at every other major, for that matter. But Dodig and Melo defeated the Bryans in the final of Roland Garros, which positioned them as a pretty good shot to win the Open.
They may be 37 now, but they’re hardly too old for doubles players. Tommy Haas, known more for his singles career than doubles, paired with Radek Stepanek for the fortnight; both are 37 years old, as well. They trounced the No. 13 seeds, Pablo Cuevas and David Marrero, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 on Thursday.
With Bob and Mike, opportunities expand for those wishing to make an impact in this category. But it won’t be the same Open without them.
Will you miss the Bryans at this year’s Open? Sound off in the comments!