For years, fans and experts alike pointed to Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan as one of if not the doubles teams to watch. But now that they are retired, ATPTour.com put the twins on the hot seat.
The American brothers, who are on the outside looking in at the start of an ATP Tour season for the first time in more than two decades, do not believe there will be a dominant doubles force in 2021.
“It’s pretty wide open. There are a lot of new teams. It was surprising to see some of the best teams from last year break up, so I’m interested to see how that chemistry is going to work out,” Mike said. “Some of those pairings have never played before. Some have rejoined and they’re Grand Slam champs from the past, so it’s all going to kick off… and [we will] see who meshes and gets some confidence going into the year.”
Two of the teams the brothers have their sights set on are “new”. But one of those duos, Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, finished at year-end No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Doubles Team Rankings in 2016.
“Bruno Soares and Jamie Murray were a force to be reckoned with. They finished No. 1 in 2016, won two Slams, then went their separate ways,” Bob said. “Bruno’s back with Jamie. Jamie’s got even more experience now. They’re both getting up there in years. They’ve seen it all, they’ve done it all, so there’s no reason why they can’t hold up a Grand Slam trophy this year.”
Mike agrees with Bob, and they were both surprised in 2019 when Murray and Soares split to end their first team stint.
“They complement each other very well. Bruno’s got the great returns. Murray’s all over the net with just awesome hands. He’s got the chip lob,” Mike said. “They blanket the net and they have a lot of experience. I would say they’re in the hunt for a lot of these tournaments, probably going to win another Grand Slam.”
Brazilian Marcelo Melo will play the Australian Open with Romanian Horia Tecau. But his full-time partner for the year will be Tecau’s former partner, Dutchman Jean-Julien Rojer. The Bryan Brothers believe Melo and Rojer could be an interesting duo, adding that they believe the veterans will be a hard-working team.
“[They are] two guys that have been around a long time. They’ve had success with different partners. They’ve won Slams, both veterans,” Bob said. “You have Melo the tall guy, solid on the returns and solid on the volleys. Rojer is explosive at net and a great athlete. They’re coming together for probably for one of the last partnerships of their career. I look for them to do some damage this year.”
The twins explained why the teams remaining together, especially those that have been together for many years, have an advantage. Mike pointed to Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, the year-end No. 1 team in 2019, as a duo that should not take long to fire up. The Colombians have been close since childhood.
“I know that when we saw teams break up, we were always salivating because we know it takes time. To have that momentum, to have that shared experience of all those matches together, it bodes well,” Mike said. “Cabal and Farah, they’re going to start off pretty hot I bet. Herbert and Mahut, those are the two teams in my mind that are the favourites [because of their experience together].”
Neither Bryan thinks that one team is a shoe-in to dominate the doubles circuit this year. They believe there are many pairs capable of surging to year-end No. 1. When pushed to predict the 2021 year-end No. 1 team, Mike chose Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, and Bob selected Cabal and Farah. But as Mike added, any duo could step up.
“The doubles is wide open. I think whoever finishes No. 1 is going to have to win one or two Slams and there are 10 or 15 great teams and it just depends who saves a match point early in a tournament [and then goes on a big run],” Mike said. “It’s going to come down to maybe the Austrralian Open, whoever starts strong.”