Achieving 16 Grand Slam titles is no mean feat. And to continuously do well and challenge the upcoming stars at the age of 39 makes it all the more special.
Last year, we saw the resurgence of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the singles arena. The duo returned from an injury hiatus and demolished everything in their path to win two Grand Slams each.
Who knows, this year we might see the resurgence of the best doubles pair in the world.
Bob and Mike Bryan, nearing 40, managed to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open where they lost a tightly contested encounter against Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.
They were staring at exit in the first round itself when they found themselves in deep trouble, at 4-4, 0-40 in the second set, after losing the first set.
However, as they have done so often, they clawed their way back to win the opening match.
Nearing the age of 40, it made me wonder as to how they keep doing it over and over again. How do they just keep coming out and winning all the time?
"Luck. Nah I mean we put our heads down and work hard. It's not getting any easier, that's for sure. But we still like to get out here and have a chance to win these tournaments. I feel like we can still do it. Our bodies are still feeling good. We are eager and trained hard in the offseason. So the goals are the same, to be No. 1 and win Slams. Hopefully, we can do that like Roger Federer. He's still doing it."
The Bryan brothers played their first Grand Slam more than 13 years ago. They won their first one in 2005 at Roland Garros. Since then, they have gone on to win 15 more times, breaking a plethora of records on the way.
They have held the World No. 1 doubles ranking jointly for 438 weeks, which is longer than anyone else in doubles history, and have also enjoyed that world number one ranking together for a record 139 consecutive weeks.
They also won multiple Olympic Gold medals for the United States and have achieved everything there is to achieve in the world of tennis.
So what keeps them going?
"We thought last year was the last year. As long as we are healthy and we are enjoying ourselves and enjoying the process of waking up with a mission to improve, then this is a great gig and we aren't giving it up anytime soon. I have a family at home that I have to balance but they are really supportive of what we do here. That makes it easier. We have goals, we want to do more."
The most important aspect to be a successful doubles pairing is the chemistry between the two players. We have seen a host of successful doubles players change their partners on multiple occasions over the years.
India's very own Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi began their partnership extremely well before having an ugly fall-out which rattled their relationship.
There have been many such cases where successful doubles players have broken their partnership due to unforeseen circumstances.
Fortunately, such has not been the case with the Bryans. They have stuck together right from the very beginning and plan to end their careers together as well.
However, have they ever thought of switching partners?
"No. Maybe if I retired Mike would keep going. Who knows? I think that's why we've been able to remain great. We never had to worry about the other brother looking for a new partner. We never felt scared that a bad match would create a break in this team. That helps, knowing that this guy is never going to run away."
Unfortunately, the doubles format has been decreasing in popularity over the years. In order to keep it alive, there have been talks about a few rule changes which could be implemented in the near future.
There have been a few changes beginning to pop up in mixed doubles which has increased the popularity of the format.
Recently, the Hopman Cup saw the "fast 4" format being played which had a few tweaks to the normal rules of tennis, one of them being the removal of the "let" (net chord) rule.
When asked about whether these rule changes would be welcomed in men's doubles, the Bryan brothers were all for it.
"That's a decent rule. There's more continuous play. It's more exciting, you get a variation of bounce [without the let]. I don't think that's a bad rule. College tennis has had that for while, and World Team Tennis as well. So these tweaks aren't bad for the sport. You look for ways to increase the entertainment value for fans and they are right to look for that."
The American tennis conundrum
While the United States of America has continually produced quality doubles players, the singles scene has not seen a similar uprising.
Ever since Andy Roddick left the arena, nobody from the USA has had a major impact in singles.
There have been a few like Sam Querrey, John Isner, and Jack Sock, who keep knocking on the doors of the big guns. However, no one has been able to take control of the situation like Roddick did.
"It's the era of Federer, Nadal, Murray and Djokovic. These guys have soaked up most of the Slams and big tournaments for so long. It's good to have a guy in the top 10 in Jack Sock. Isner is always a threat. And you have Querrey and a crop of young Americans knocking on the door inside the top 100. Once these guys retire, who knows? It could be a couple of years before someone breaks through."
Over the past few years or so, a few documentaries and movies have been made on the careers and interesting lives of legendary singles players.
Who knows, the next big Hollywood blockbuster might be about the legendary Bryan brothers?
I, for one, would be the first in line to grab a ticket to watch the movie.Published 30 Jan 2018, 22:47 IST