Retirement is never not a four-letter word.
But the legendary Bryan brothers have always said that they are a two-for-one special – that they would leave the game together.
And in recent years, they had considered retirement twice before
But this time, Bob and Mike Bryan mean it.
“Mike and I chose to finish our 2019 season after the US Open, even knowing there was a strong chance we’d qualify for the ATP Finals. After much discussion, we decided that it would be best to rest our minds and strengthen our bodies in preparation for 2020 which will be our final season on the ATP Tour,” lefty twin Bob Bryan told the ATP Tour website.
“For the last 21 years, we have been so grateful for the opportunity to live out our dreams of playing professional tennis. It has truly been a magical ride. However, we want to end this great ride while we’re healthy and we can still compete for titles.”
So there will indeed be a farewell tour for Bob and Mike, who will turn 42 on April 29.
And if everything goes well, they will go out on their own terms. That’s a luxury many athletes don’t get to have.
Impressive comeback in 2019
A little over a year ago, it didn’t appear they would have their happy ending. Bob, who had been dealing with hip pain all season, ended up having a hip resurfacing operation in August. It was similar to the one Andy Murray had last January.
In the meantime, brother Mike teamed up with Jack Sock to win Wimbledon, the US Open and the 2018 ATP Tour Finals.
But Bob Bryan was back to start 2019. And the twins played more than a full schedule this season. In their first major back, they reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.
They won the 250-level event in Delray Beach. And they followed that up with a victory at the Masters 1000 tournament in Miami. The Bryans reached the finals in Atlanta during the North American hard-court swing, and lost in the third round of the US Open to Jackson Withrow and … Sock.
But that was it. Even though they would have been the No. 8 team to qualify for London this week.
Two retirement close calls
According to a New York Times piece – published a year ago to the day – the brothers were close to making the call two years ago.
After winning double-digit tournaments in 2013 (with three majors and five Masters 1000 tournaments) and 2014, that “twin energy” – as Mike Bryan put it – wasn’t as strong. They won “just” three tournaments in 2016, all on clay.
Bob, a father of three, was feeling the pull of family. Mike – who recently announced his engagement to model Nadia Murgasova and has a baby boy on the way – was in an unhappy marriage.
“I actually had a statement written up, and we were going into the press room when Mike said, ‘Hold off until the U.S. Open.’ It was a really tough time for both of us,” Bob told the New York Times of the aftermath of a loss in the 2017 Australian Open final to Henri Kontinen and John Peers.
After winning Miami and Monte Carlo in 2018 and getting their ranking back into the top 10, they considered “pulling a Pete Sampras” – i.e., going out on top if they won two majors and got back to No. 1.
But then, Bob Bryan’s hip caused them to retire from the Madrid final. It was the first time in over 1,400 matches that they had done that. And then, the surgery in August.
US Open will be the end
In one sense, they will follow in fellow Californian Sampras’s footsteps by … saying farewell at the US Open.
And they may well be able to play their third Olympics, after winning gold in London and bronze in Beijing. The Tokyo Olympics will take place this summer, before the US Open.
They also have changed their minds about setting a firm deadline.
A year ago, Mike Bryan told the Times that it wasn’t the ideal plan.
“If you set a deadline, you end up limping into a year,” Mike Bryan told the Times. “I don’t want to put a final date on things as long as I still love waking up and going to practice.”
But clearly, it was time – especially with Mike Bryan starting his family at a relatively late age.
Wrapping up the 2019 season early, and giving themselves four months to rest up after playing 20 tournaments in just eight months, they should be fresh and ready to go for one last go-round.