Gold medalists pay visit, play match

An Olympic gold medal in London earlier this month, a bronze in Beijing four years ago, 11 Grand Slam titles, more than 700 career wins, 80 team titles, and 297 weeks in a row as the world’s number-one ranked men’s doubles team. The numbers speak for themselves — the Bryan brothers are arguably the best doubles duo of all time.

Fresh off their victory at the 2012 Summer Games, the golden pair touched down at the Lake Club in Wilton last Saturday. Mike and Bob Bryan showcased their talent in an exhibition match against fellow ATP pros Ashley Fisher and Jordan Kerr.

The 34-year-old Bryan twins, who hail from Camarillo, Calif., also too part in the final match of a pro-am tournament at the Lake Club to benefit two local charities: Norwalk Grassroots Tennis and the National Tennis Foundation.

The Bryans started their afternoon playing doubles with members of the Lake Club, before taking center court for their match against Kerr and Fisher. The exhibition was the Bryan brothers’ last stop before chasing their fourth U.S. Open doubles title.

“It’s been cool; we have been riding high. We went straight from London to Toronto then Cincinnati, doing a lot of appearances. It’s been a busy week,” said Mike Bryan, donning a white shirt to help members of the Lake Club distinguish him from Bob, who wore a black shirt. “Everyone’s been super nice and proud of us for winning the gold. We are still thrilled that we did it, and it’s finally starting to sink in now that we are back on United States soil.”

The twins have been so busy since winning gold in London that they have only seen their Citi Bank commercial once. They are not complaining, though: For the Bryan brothers, winning the gold in London represents the crowning achievement in their careers thus far.

“It takes the cake, no doubt,” said Bob Bryan. “It’s on the top of the list. That medal is going to go right in the front of the trophy case. We have won all of the (Grand) Slams, but there is no greater feeling than winning an Olympic gold.”

The Bryans have been overwhelmed with support from tennis fans. “We have really seen the importance of the medal in the reactions of the fans.,” said Bob Bryan. “Even casual tennis fans are proud of us and telling us way to go We have never received that kind of reaction after winning a Grand Slam.”

The Bryan brothers are used to sharing the spotlight, but they did not expect the attention the gold medal itself would receive.

“The gold medal is like a celebrity itself,” said Mike Bryan. “Whenever we bring it out in a room people flock. It’s probably already been in 10,000 hands. In the last two weeks we have had it in our pockets. We walked around with it everywhere. We don’t want to leave it in the hotel room. It really has been a lot of fun sharing it with so many people.”

Although the Bryan brothers have been enjoying all the support and attention that comes with winning an Olympic gold medal, they are not finished yet.

“The (U.S.) Open is huge for us, being Americans. We are tied at 11 for the doubles Grand Slam record, and we would love to break that at the Open,” said Bob Bryan. “We are always gunning for number one. There is always the next thing; you can never rest when playing tennis. There is always another tournament on the horizon.”

And if you thought that the Bryan brothers would bypass the next Olympics, think again. “We are going to try and shoot for Rio (in 2016) then shut it down at 38,” said the pair in perfect harmony.

The Bryans said they were enjoying their visit to the Lake Club. “Today is another great event, and we are having fun meeting some new people and giving back to charity,” said Mike Bryan. “We are going to have some good practice against Ashley Fisher and Jordan Kerr today. It’s a great tune-up for the U.S. Open.”

The Bryan brothers, who have their own charity, the Bryan Bros. Foundation, enjoy helping young athletes get started in tennis.

“We are always looking to giving back to kids,” said Bob Bryan.

On Saturday, the Bryans played two games against boys and girls from Norwalk Grassroots Tennis. They played against a pair of boys, who won one point against the golden duo, and two girls who impressed with some tough backhands of their own.. During one of the games, the Bryan brothers were handicapped by playing while holding hands with twins from Norwalk Grassroots Tennis.

Later, it was on to the featured exhibition match, which the Bryans won by scores of 7-5, 6-3 over Fisher and Kerr.

After all of their success, the Bryan brothers still stress the importance of having fun while playing the game.

“The big thing for parents is to make it fun for their kids,” said Bob Bryan. “You don’t want to be worrying about the wins and losses, you just want to have them with their friends. When you are little you just have to fall in love, otherwise it just becomes work. We still love the game today; that’s why we are still playing.”

Although the twins still love playing the game, they know they have to begin thinking about life after tennis.

“That’s the big question,” said Mike Bryan. “Maybe commentating or starting our own academy, or college coaching. College is the most fun you can have in a sport.”

Whatever path the Bryan brothers choose, they will continue to do what they do best: Work as a team.