Coaching Bob and Mike Bryan
Originally published on: 09/05/12 00:00
What's it like coaching twins?
It’s a unique dynamic. Neither of them wants to let the other one down. They both want to be the good player on the day and there’s that 100% intensity all the time, spurring each other on.
As with all brothers, obviously there are arguments now and then…
Not too often. We’ve had some funny stories where they haven’t got along with each other occasionally, but they always get over it quickly. It never really lasts into the next day. The beauty about the relationship is that sometimes they get upset with each other and someone will swat a ball into the other guy's back, but it passes and their mood with each other after the practice session is amazing – they’re right back to being best buds. They have that unbreakable bond. They can be angry at each other and endure a tough loss. They’re just so, so tight.
How did you start working with Bob and Mike?
We played each other a few times on the tour just before I stopped playing, so we knew each other from a few battles that we’d had. I was playing World Team Tennis for a city and they came in as Marquee players. We were all teammates for a week and we re-bonded. They had already got to No.1 in the rankings but they were on a bit of a cold streak with their finals and felt maybe they could use someone to travel with them again because they were going through a period when they were playing without a coach for a couple of months. In 2005, they said: ‘do you want to come and try the US summer with us?’, so I did. It went well. They won the US Open – beating [Jonas] Bjorkman and [Max] Mirnyi in a great final – and we never looked back. Everything has been great since then.
You won 16 ATP doubles titles, including six in one season in 1992. Have those experiences helped you get the best out of them?
I’m not half the player they are. In the beginning it was just getting to know them, as all coaches do. You try to understand how to get the best out of them, how to practice with them, how to prepare them. I learnt as a coach as I went with Mike and Bob, and I’m still learning. I’m still trying to help them get a tiny little bit better as a player each year, trying to get the best out of them each day. That’s always the challenge. You’re always trying to get an inspired effort each day and it’s not easy, especially coaching people for a long time. They are amazing. They are self-motivated, incredible professionals. They are probably the best coaching job that anyone could have.
The way doubles is played has changed in recent years, power players are enjoying more success, but still Bob and Mike have been able to come out on top. How have they remained one step ahead?
Their style of playing at least to date has been very successful. You don’t fix what isn’t broke. They serve volley, they don’t use the eye-formation too much, they play up to the net and use an aggressive formation as much as possible. They’re very, very traditionalistic – throwbacks so to speak – but they do what they do so well and so effectively that nine times out of ten they come out on top.
You give Bob and Mike a lot of credit obviously, but they often pay tribute to you. How do you feel you’ve helped them over the years?
I just do my best each day to try and get the best out of them. Really they are just championship calibre people. They have that innate quality that very, very few people have. I do my best and hopefully I’ve guided them in a good direction. I’m proud of their record since I’ve been coaching them but really it’s just that championship quality that they have inherently that makes all the things that they’ve done possible.