Wayne Bryan walked over to the pair of teenage doubles players on the court with a microphone in hand. They reminded him of his own boys when they were just starting out.
“How did it feel to play the Bryan brothers?” he asked at the Citi Open, his voice booming through the Stadium Court speakers. His sons had just dispatched 16-year-old Stefan Kozlov and 17-year-old Jared Donaldson in straight sets, and Wayne, the Citi Open emcee, was trying to provide some final entertainment for the crowd at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center on Wednesday night.
“I’m just really happy I got to play them before they retire,” Kozlov said innocently.
The crowd laughed, and Mike and Bob Bryan, who lost Friday to Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey, 7-5, 2-6, 10-8 (tiebreaker), exchanged looks on the court. Kozlov tried to recover and said he hopes they play forever. The next day, the Bryans would share a laugh about it.
“We’re 20 years older than Kozlov,” Mike said. “When we turned pro, he was just born.”
Retirement is a topic that has come up with the Bryans, and they don’t shy away from it. The 36-year-old doubles pair has accomplished just about everything in tennis, but the brothers still have things to play for in the final stage of their careers.
“We’d like to try to touch 40,” Mike said.
“You don’t want to put the rackets in the closet knowing we left some Slams on the table,” Bob added.
The Bryans have 98 men’s doubles titles together, including 15 Grand Slams. They’ve held the No. 1 ranking for most of the past decade. Admittedly, winning isn’t exactly the same as it used to be. The losses are worse.
Bob said he didn’t sleep for two days after they were stunned in the Wimbledon men’s doubles final, losing to Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil, who were playing together for the first time.
“When we first got on the Tour, you’re so excited and everything’s new,” Mike said. “To win a match was so incredible for us. We were so stoked. We were clawing so hard to get that first Grand Slam, to reach all of these goals and Davis Cup, everything was so far away and we were working like dogs to get there. Now we’ve done it and been there and kind of achieved our dreams.
“We’ve been doing it for a while, like 10 years, so it’s not so fresh and exciting, but at the same time, it’s a challenge for us to stay on top.”
What’s left are more records, like 100 titles as a team. They’ve said in the past they might retire after the 2016 Olympics. They’re not ready to set an exact end date, but a normal life — one without tennis and spending just about every waking minute together — beckons. They used to live together, share a bank account and play music together. Their girlfriends would hang out with each other.
But after Bob got married, he said he “cut the umbilical cord a little bit.” They now live in different parts of Florida, but Wayne said they probably only spend three to four weeks apart a year when considering their tournament schedule.
Wayne never let them ski because he was worried it was dangerous, so it’s on their list for post-retirement. They’ll travel to actually sight-see instead of work, maybe lie on the beach for once. Not having to go to the gym every day will be nice, too.
“Every time I spend time at the mall or take a day off, don’t you feel really guilty?” Bob asked Mike.
“That’s the feeling that won’t be there when we retire,” Bob continued. “We won’t feel like we’re going to pay a price for having fun or spending time away from the courts.”
They don’t plan to spend too much time away from tennis. The Bryans said they might start a tennis academy or occasionally put on tennis clinics at tournaments, like Wayne does.
Asked about the tennis future of his two grandchildren, Wayne’s face lit up. The Bryan tennis legacy might not be ending so soon after all.
“Certainly, they’ll have the genes and the talent. It’s just whether they want to make that journey again,” Wayne said. “We know how to do it, it’s just whether they want to do that again.”