Bryan brothers: One in mind and a pair in victory

Melbourne, Jan 25 (IANS) The Bryan brothers Mike and Bob on the other side of the net is not a sight that doubles players like. They know that one of them is left-handed. They also know that the Bryans mean trouble. The person who first said that it takes two to tango must have foreseen the Bryan brothers.

On a sunny but windy day at the Margaret Court arena at the Australian Open, the 3rd seeded pair are lined up to play the doubles quarter final against the formidable, 11th seeded pair of Ivan Dodig of Croatia (who also partners Sania Mirza in the mixed), and Marcel Granollers of Spain. These four are among top and consistent doubles players on tour and each pair could count their chances.

In the end, it was 7-6, 5-7, 6-4 in the Bryans’ favour in an incredibly tightly-contested match where a mix of wristy artistry at the net and deceptive down-the-lines were most crucial. Dodig and Granollers should have won. But yet again the Bryans emerged chest-thumpingly triumphant. They are not just symbols of tennis victory, they are jiving genetic triumphs.

One reason is that trying to break the Bryans is something like trying to break the Berlin Wall in the 70s. They shoot you from all sides. After the service or the return, both the Bryans line menacingly near the net, about half way down the service box, springing up and down like mechanical toys. Anything that is shot in between is dropped or stab-volleyed back; down the sides, they lunge with an anticipation that is uncanny. Lob it and one of them will scramble and return it with compliments of the Bryans.

Only on a handful of occasions during this epic encounter were the Bryans left stranded. In the 8th game of the first set, Granollers hit an amazing, down-the-line return on Mike Bryan’s serve which left his mirror-image brother stranded. Such shots would have given Granollers and Dodig some thoughts about victory. But history shows that when the Bryans are out there, only they dream.

The Croat Dodig was outstanding at the net and with his forehands as well, and any other opponent would have withered. But after losing the second set 5-7, the Bryans came back not just with new pink shirts — which they change at the same time as if genetically ordered — but with new vigour.

In the 3rd set, confronted with the Bryans prancing at the net in rhythm and ready to kill, Dodig hit five mighty forehands looking for that space between them, but all of them came right back — with some top spin attached. The sixth one Bob netted. Well it takes that much.

In doubles, the problem is that you have only half the court to squeeze something in. In the other half, the killer is waiting at the net. Playing the Bryans, you don’t even have the open half. That is closed soon enough as both of them attack the net after the return.

The B brothers have developed a keen understanding of each others’ game after playing together for one-and-a-half decades. The basic lessons are all well ingrained: don’t lunge for the ball together, rush to the net at the right time, judge well the balls going out. All you can hear are big instructions sounding like little yelps, an occasional grunt, and a call to “leave” the opponents stab volley which is headed outside.

“Do you disagree at any time,” this reporter asked them after their previous demolition act.

“Yeah, yeah, we do,” Mike said. “That’s one of the reasons we decided to have a coach.”

“We are not on the same page all the time you know,” Bob piped up to say, with one eye on his brother to see if he disagrees.

So is it primarily strategy or do you just go out there and play your game?

“It’s a lot of strategy. We watch a lot of films, we work on formations and all that stuff.”

They are two in game, one in mind and a pair in victory.

–IANS

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