Santa Barbara played a part in the tennis success of twins Bob and Mike Bryan, the most successful doubles teams of all time.
After winning 16 Grand Slam titles, 119 tour-level championships, a Davis Cup title and an Olympics gold medal, the brothers made it official Thursday that they’re retired, just four days before the start of the U.S. Open in New York.
The 42-year-old brothers are the sons of Kathy and Wayne Bryan of Camarillo. Wayne is a former UCSB standout.
As junior players, the Bryan brothers made frequent trips to Santa Barbara to play in tournaments run by the Santa Barbara Tennis Patrons.
In their early days as professionals, they held charity events at the Santa Barbara Tennis Club and at UCSB, raising money for the Tennis Patrons and the UCSB program.
Wayne Bryan said the Santa Barbara Tennis Patrons tournaments and programs “were where Mike and Bob were first able to spread their wings as juniors.”
Ethel Byers, the former director of the Tennis Patrons, said Wayne Bryan did a lot for the Tennis Patrons.
“When the boys were little, he brought everybody from his club up here to play in our junior tennis tournament,” Byers recalled. “And he always brought Mike and Bob until they were in high school. We had huge, huge support from their area, especially from the Bryans.”
Byers remembers the twins coming to the Tennis Club for one of their first fundraisers for the Tennis Patrons shortly after they turned pro.
“I remember them driving in in a brand-new Mercedes … they bought it together,” she said. “It was a Mercedes convertible and they came cruising down the driveway, and I said, ‘Hey, I hope you have enough money to live on.’ I teased them all the time. They were priceless … so much fun.
“All the time I was with the Tennis Patrons and certainly all these years, they’ve been good friends.”
As the brothers’ fame grew and their demands increased, they couldn’t make it back to Santa Barbara. But they never forgot the Tennis Patrons and junior tennis in Santa Barbara and Ventura County as they continued to donate money for scholarships.
“They just got so busy and in such demand that Wayne just started sending us money for our events because the boys couldn’t come,” Byers said.
The Bryan brothers finished 10 seasons as the No. 1 doubles team in the ATP world rankings and helped the United States win the Davis Cup in 2007.
The brothers are the most successful doubles team in Davis Cup history, winning 25 matches across 15 years.
In March, just before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down tennis, the Bryans clinched a Davis Cup best-of-five series against Uzbekistan in Hawaii.
Their energy, emotions and exciting play brought more attention to doubles. Fans loved their famous leaping chest bumps at the end of tough points and victories.
“You can’t say enough about the Bryans, you really can’t,” Byers said. “It’s just been a very, for me, a lifetime, practically, of tennis. They were always a big part of it — Wayne and Kathy, certainly.”
The brothers had already said 2020 would be their last year on tour.
“We feel it’s the right time to walk away,” Mike told The Associated Press.
They were not on the entry list released last week for doubles at the U.S. Open, where play begins Monday without spectators amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bryans won five Open championships, the most recent coming in 2014.
“We’re most proud of the way we devoted ourselves completely to the game and gave our full effort every day,” Bob told the AP. “Our loyalty toward each other never wavered and we are leaving professional tennis with zero regrets. We’ll miss the competition and camaraderie amongst the players. We’ll also miss the excitement of gearing up for a big match and playing for the roar of the fans.”
Before they became famous professional players, the Bryans played at Rio Mesa High and Stanford University.
At Stanford, the Bryans led the Cardinal to back-to-back NCAA team titles. In 1998, the twins won the 1998 doubles title, and Bob took the singles championship.
The brothers played singles coming up the ranks, but it was in doubles where they made their mark in the sport.
“A lot of kids who play tennis, they dream of being No. 1 in the world in singles,” Wayne Bryan said in a New York Times story. “But with identical twin brothers with the exact same DNA and the exact same parents and same coaching and same club, that’s pretty competitive. How can you be No. 1 in the world if you’re No. 2 in your own bedroom? So we never wanted them to play and compete against each other. They were born to play doubles.”