Bryan brothers bid tennis farewell as most successful doubles duo ever

The legendary career of the American twin brothers has come to a close with a plethora of records to their name, an Olympic gold medal at London 2012 and a legacy of a commitment to the sport of tennis. 

By Nick McCarvel

The greatest doubles team in tennis history has hung up its rackets.

American twin brothers Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan have called time on their 26-year, record-setting career, having made their debut as 17-year-olds at the 1995 US Open.

They walk away from the sport with countless accolades, most notably as the most successful duo ever, claiming 16 Grand Slam trophies, Olympic gold at London 2012, 119 doubles titles together, and 438 weeks as co-No.1s on the ATP rankings.

“We are leaving professional tennis with zero regrets,” said Bob Bryan in a statement provided by the ATP.

Added brother Mike: “We feel it’s the right time to walk away. We’ve given over 20 years to the sport, and we are now looking forward to the next chapter of our lives. With that said, we feel very blessed to have been able to play the game of doubles for so long.”

Their 119 titles together came across 178 career final appearances. They won 16 of the 30 major finals they competed in and won 39 ATP Masters 1000 titles in 59 final appearances, helping them maintain their No.1 status for those aforementioned 438 weeks, and ending 10 seasons as the No.1 team (2003, 05-07, 09-14).

Having initially intended to finish their career at the US Open, which starts Monday (31 August), the COVID-19 pandemic threw their plans out the window. Instead, the brothers won in their final ATP appearance at Delray Beach in February, and then in early March helped Team USA secure a spot in the Davis Cup Finals – marking their final competitive matches.

“We are grateful to have had the opportunities in the beginning of the year to play and say our goodbyes to the fans,” said Mike. “Winning our final event in Delray Beach and clinching the Davis Cup tie in Honolulu are moments we’ll forever remember and cherish."

While the brothers’ legacy is cemented as a team, Mike did also win two majors – the 2018 US Open and Wimbledon doubles title – alongside American Jack Sock, as Bob underwent a successful hip surgery in Aug. 2018.

Mike became the oldest doubles player to reach No.1 at age 40 in July of that summer, his 506 weeks at No.1 the most of any individual in doubles.

Accolades poured in from around tennis and the sporting world, with icon Billie Jean King tweeting: “They are true pros in every way, and have been excellent ambassadors for our sport. Can’t wait to see what they accomplish next.”

Doubles – not always the plan

The brothers won the U.S. junior 18s event in 1995 as a doubles pairing to get a wild card into their first pro tournament, then won the US Open junior doubles title the following year. But doubles wasn’t always the plan: Both of the brothers attempted a singles career, having avoided playing one another in finals of junior events as kids.

In two seasons at Stanford, they helped the university to back-to-back NCAA team titles, winning the doubles title in 1998 – the same year Bob was singles champion. Bob Bryan reached a career-high No.116 in the world in singles in 2000, Mike reaching his high of world No.246 that same season.

From 2001 the brothers began to turn their attention to doubles, and in 2004 decided to made the switch fully.

A decade of dominance

That decision came at the onset of massive success: They'd won their first major at the French Open in 2003, finished that year as world No.1 for a first time and then – over the next decade – came to dominate the discipline, unseating doubles greats like Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde and the women's pair of Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver.

In 2007, the Bryans helped the U.S. to the Davis Cup title in front of a boisterous home crowd, then the next year won the bronze medal at Beijing 2008. In 2012, they would better that Olympic performance with a gold medal, winning on Centre Court at the All England Club in Wimbledon, beating the French duo of Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-1, 7-6(2).

"Our whole goal for this year was to upgrade that (bronze) medal to something more shiny," Bob Bryan said after the match, according to NPR. "And we did it."

The brothers celebrated that victory as they did countless others: With their famed chest bump, a move they became synonymous for in tennis.

Their best year was arguably 2013: They won 11 events, including the Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon. They’d win 10 more titles the following year, in 2014.

Pushing their bodies

While their years-long run at No.1 ended in 2015, the Bryan twins pushed on as they neared age 40. They changed their diets, re-tooled their off-court fitness routines, and played a more concise schedule.

Having won their 100th career title at the US Open in 2014, they wouldn’t win another major, but did clock seven more Masters 1000 crowns, the biggest titles outside of the Grand Slams. Last year they won their sixth Miami Open trophy, 20 years after making their debut there in 1999.

2019 also marked their 14th year of earning the ATP’s Fan Favourite Team award, including a stretch of 2005-17 prior. They earned the prestigious Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year award in 2015, as well.

In total sum, their 1,108-359 career win-loss is a record.

Bob and Mike Bryan celebrate their Olympic gold medal, London 2012

Saying farewell

Having announced their intention to call time on their career at the end of the 2020 US Open, the pandemic threw those plans into disarray. The brothers made the third round of the Australian Open this January before winning in Delray Beach and helping the U.S. back to the Davis Cup Finals, but with the long layoff and both of them with families to tend to, they opted to say farewell without playing one last slam.

Their legacy will live beyond the court: The brothers were well known for signing every autograph, making countless fan appearances, hitting balls into the crowd after matches, and doing everything they could to help promote the game of doubles within the sport of tennis.

“Thank you for being role models,” wrote former world No.1 and fellow 2020 retiree Caroline Wozniacki on Instagram.

“Best team ever!” added fellow doubles great Marcelo Melo.

Fittingly, too: Because that’s exactly what they are.

“We’re most proud of the way we devoted ourselves completely to the game and gave our full effort every day," said Bob in his ATP statement. "Our loyalty toward each other never wavered. We’ll miss the competition and camaraderie amongst the players. We’ll also miss the excitement of gearing up for a big match and playing for the roar of the fans."