BOB AND MIKE BRYAN GO FOR SIXTH MIAMI OPEN TITLE IN COMEBACK JOURNEY
By Tucker Verdi
Miami Gardens, FL — Competing in the 2019 Miami Open presented by Itaú seemed like a stretch for the Bryan Brothers just a few months ago. Surgery and a 12-week layoff had complicated their successful start to 2018 that included their fifth title at the Miami Open, and thrown into jeopardy the future of the most successful men’s doubles team in tennis history.
At the 2018 Madrid Masters, competing for what would have been their record 39th Masters 1000 doubles title, Bob and Mike Bryan did something they had never done before in their career as a team — dating all the way back to their professional debut in 1998. In those 20 years of competing at Grand Slams all the way down through Challenger tournaments, the pair had never retired during a match.
Bob, who had been playing through pain in his hip, finally could not bear it anymore as an awkward landing intensified the pain. This wasn’t just a tweaked muscle or a pinched nerve; this was something more serious.
That would be the last match Bob would play for the remainder of the year. He would undergo hip replacement surgery in August just before the US Open — an operation no player in the world had ever had and then successfully returned to the tour.
In his absence, Mike partnered with several other players, including winning Wimbledon, the US Open, and the ATP Tour Finals with fellow American Jack Sock. But all along — and even after such a successful swing with a new teammate — the goal was to have Bob back by his side.
“I would’ve loved for him to have hoisted the trophy with me,” Mike said after winning Wimbledon in July. “[But], he was very supportive from home; and, I dedicated the victory to him. He was sharing in the whole process. I’m just looking forward to having him back”.
The duo — with 16 Grand Slams and 117 titles in total together — is the most accomplished pairing in the sport. And having been side by side since birth, it was only right for Bob to join Mike as soon as he was ready.
The journey was not easy for Bob, going through months and months of rehab. His game will take some time to get back to where it used to be — if it ever does. But as Bob tries to reach that level again, he admits he underwent the procedure knowing he might never play another point of tennis.
“Who knows if this joint would hold up,” Bob said of playing after the replacement. “[But] I feel great, quality of life is great, practices are going well. Maybe I’m not 100 percent yet, but I’m only five months [removed from surgery]. The doctors said this is more of a seven or eight months until you feel perfect.”
They played their first tournament in Brisbane in January, reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open a couple weeks later, and won their first title since coming back in Delray Beach in February. The surprising results inspired the twins to believe that they could return to the highest levels of the game.
Now, at the 2019 Miami Open, they have a chance at added to their unprecedented haul. Standing in their way is a far less experienced team of Wesley Koolhof and Stefanos Tsitsipas — the latter of whom is quite literally half the age of Bob and Mike. Regardless of the result, seeing the brothers back at the top of the game is a lot like watching the brothers trademark chest bump after they win — it’s just how it should be, and it feels very weird without it.
At 40, and just one match away from their sixth Miami Open title and yet another chest bump, the Bryan Brothers are relishing in the opportunity for a second chance at greatness — as if anyone needed a reminder.