Commentary

Gold twice as nice for the Bryan bros

Updated: August 15, 2012, 9:48 AM ET
By Greg Garber | ESPN.com

Wayne Bryan, father and first coach of twins Bob and Mike Bryan, did not witness their finest moment at the London Olympics. He was in Washington working the ATP event as the on-court MC and, pacing the floor of his room at the W Hotel, too nervous to watch the match on television.

As is his custom in these circumstances, Bryan consulted his laptop every five or 10 minutes covering the screen with a small white card and sliding it down to reveal the statistics -- total stats, break points, etc. -- until finally arriving at the score line.

The Bryans won the first set of the gold-medal doubles match 6-4, and were trailing Frenchmen Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 5-6 in the second when his courtesy car arrived to take him to the tennis site, H.G. Fitzgerald Stadium in Rock Creek Park.

Knowing that the average doubles game lasts three minutes and tiebreakers average about six minutes, Bryan calculated that, including changeovers, his boys would either win in 12 minutes or be headed for a "dreaded" third set.

[+] EnlargeByran Brothers
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesThe Bryan brothers would love another couple of wins, especially a major, to officially cement themselves as the greatest team of all time.

He called his wife, Kathy, from the car, asking "Did they win?" Kathy, equally nervous, wasn't watching, either. "I don't know, I was calling you to find out," she said from a car wash in Camarillo, Calif.

They needn't have worried. Their sons won 7-6 (2) in the second set to take their first Olympic gold medal after failing to reach the podium in 2004 at Athens and winning the bronze four years ago at Beijing. They were the top seeds in both events.

ESPN.com chatted last week with Wayne Bryan, who's back in California, about his sons' triumph.

ESPN.com: So how did you actually learn they had won the gold?

Wayne Bryan: I figured I'd call my daughter-in-law, Michelle, who was at Centre Court, but at that moment my phone blew up. I was getting a text every two, three seconds, so I knew they had done it. She called me two minutes later. At long last they won the gold they felt they should have won in Athens. They were disappointed and everything they've done the last four years was pointing to this tournament.

ESPN.com: What was your reaction?

Wayne Bryan: The first thing is relief more than elation. Then you slowly try to get your arms around it. When I started walking through the players' entrance everybody's got their thumbs up. I couldn't walk one step for two days without people congratulating me. I said to the crowd in the stadium, "How about Serena [winning singles gold]? How about those Bryans?" Well, the stadium erupted. Everybody takes pride in an American winning. The gold medal is something that keeps on giving. They wore the medals for a few days at Canada because they know people all want to see it. They took it to the players' lounge and practice courts. Everyone wanted to feel it, feel how heavy it is and put it around their necks. With all due respect to Davis Cup and the majors, I think it was their greatest win ever.

ESPN.com: In a postmatch interview, they acknowledged their debt to you and Kathy for teaching them the game. How nice was that?

Wayne Bryan: They tend to not do that. One thing we learned a long time ago, you don't do parenting for thanks, and you don't get it very often. We don't expect it and don't care about it. Parenting is the ultimate privilege; it's the most important and honorable work a human can ever do. It was very nice indeed.

ESPN.com:Will we see them in the 2016 Olympics in Rio?

Wayne Bryan:The funny thing? That's exactly what they said after they won the gold medal: "We can't wait for Rio. That will be our last tournament." They're 34; I think they'd like to play four or five more years. The next-best [doubles] guy in the world is Danny Nestor, and he's 39. Mark Knowles, who played for me in WTT matches, is 40. There's less wear and tear in doubles, so it's definitely possible. They think they're going to shoot for Rio, but that's a long way away. Bob's married and got a kid. Mike is getting married in November. So we'll see.

ESPN.com: They already own the most doubles titles as a team -- 80 -- having obliterated the record of 61 that belonged to Australians Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde. What's left for them to accomplish?

Wayne Bryan: I think they have something like 13 records, but there are two still out there. One of them belongs to Todd Woodbridge, the most individual doubles titles, with 83. Mike's at 82 with Bob at 80. I'd like to see them get that one. The big one? They're tied with the Woodies with 11 Grand Slam titles -- they'd like to break that one, too. The rest have been harvested. They've been looking at these records since they were little boys. We'd post their long-term and short-term goals on the refrigerator and the bathroom mirror. When you strive early for excellence, that's when life lessons are learned. If you don't have passion, what's life all about anyway?

Greg Garber

Writer, Reporter
Greg Garber joined ESPN in 1991 and provides reports for NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. He is also a regular contributor to Outside the Lines and a senior writer for ESPN.com.