Heavy history looming for Bryans

NEW YORK -- After winning the title a few weeks ago in Cincinnati, with a chance for some heavy history looming, Bob and Mike Bryan took three days off.

"We have some really good friends in the Hamptons, so we took the families out there," said Bob on Wednesday night from his midtown Manhattan hotel. "We ate some good food, went swimming in the ocean -- we just hit a tennis ball around once, nothing really serious. It was great.

"And then we had a long list of sponsor stuff to do ... We've had the schedule for a month, so we were mentally prepared for it. We asked to start play on Thursday."

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The Bryans haven't even started their US Open campaign -- and yet they've already clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking.

It began last Thursday with a suit fitting at their hotel. Friday, they did a clinic at CityView Racquet Club and exhibition at Lake Club. On Saturday there was an appearance at the USTA's Kids Day and another clinic at Forest Hills. There were appearances at the Oakley and Prince stores in Times Square on Sunday. Then on Monday -- the first day of the tournament -- the Bryans did an interview with Fox Business, signed autographs on site for Esurance, attended the Presidential Suite Dinner and watched a night match with an Esurance contest winner.

"Yes," said Bob, laughing. "The tournament will be easy compared to that."

The world was a decidedly different place in 1951.

Sixty-two years ago: The average home cost $16,000, a gallon of gas was 27 cents, a first-class stamp was 3 cents. Rush Limbaugh and Dale Earnhardt were born. Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The King and I," starring Yul Brynner, opened on Broadway. "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger was published. Lucille Ball's "I Love Lucy" debuted on CBS.

Most of you reading this … were not yet born.

There was another cataclysmic event in the tennis world that year. Australians Ken McGregor and Frank Sedgman won all four of the Grand Slam doubles titles.

The Bryans are on the threshold of equaling that marvelous feat. In less than two weeks' time, they could simultaneously hold all four majors: the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the United States Open. Did we mention they are the reigning Olympic gold medalists? At one point this season, they won 25 matches in a row.

The calendar-year doubles Grand Slam hasn't happened in the 45 years of the Open era, but it could be happening now.

"We're really excited, because this is a great place to do something historic," Bob said. "There's no place better to finish it off at home, in front of our home fans. We're obviously anxious. There's been a lot of buildup, a lot of practice. We're ready to cut loose, finally get on the court where we're at our best."

The 35-year-old twins from California won the title two weeks ago in Cincinnati, their 25th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 championship. It was their 10th title of the year and now they've collected 92 career titles, 15 of which came in Grand Slam play, including four US Opens (2005, '08, '10, '12). They have already clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking for a record ninth time -- and the fifth consecutive season.

The potential six-match path begins Thursday against the unseeded Argentine team of Federico Delbonis and Leonardo Mayer. Next up would be the winner of Eric Butorac-Frederik Nielsen versus Johan Brunstrom-Raven Klaasen.

The last four rounds would likely feature seeded opponents: No. 15 Frantisek Cermak-Filip Polasek (third round), No. 6 Rohan Bopanna-Edouard Roger-Vasselin (quarterfinals), No. 4 Leander Paes-Radek Stepanek (semifinals) and No. 2 Alexander Peya-Bruno Soares (final).

To the casual tennis fan, those might not sound like big names, but this will be a tricky tournament for the Bryans with all the pressure they're under.

The No. 6-seeded team pushed the Bryan brothers in the Wimbledon semifinals to a fifth set, only to lose 6-3. The No. 4 team, led by the heavily decorated Paes, also reached the Wimbledon semifinals. Paes won the recent Winston-Salem event with Daniel Nestor as his partner.

The No. 2 team from Brazil is the second team in the race to London standings and has had two recent encounters with the brothers; the Brazilians lost the Queen's final in a 10-3 super tiebreaker and, earlier in the Madrid final, fell in straight sets.

Bob, for one, is curious how the brothers will react to the circumstances, the ferocious expectations.

"I'm still not sure how we're going to deal with it on the court," he said. "I think we'll be fine. At this stage of the game, we've dealt with a lot of situations with a lot on the line -- Davis Cup, Grand Slam finals, matches for No. 1. This is another one of those big moments.

"Probably winning this Slam will be the greatest thing we ever achieved. We never thought we'd get that far and here we are and have won four in a row going back to last year's Open. We're pinching ourselves."

But are they going to win?

"Yeah," Bob said. "We feel good. Obviously, we will be disappointed if we don't. We're competitors. Every time we feel like unless we're leaving with the trophy in the car, we're down in the dumps.

"We have expectations and so do a lot of our fans. We'll be gunning to take it down."

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