As Novak Djokovic and Dinara Safina were bagging the big titles at Rome and Berlin, respectively, a step closer to history was made on the doubles court. As I've mentioned before, I'm a pretty big stat-head, or tennis dork, if you will, and there's something I've been wondering the past couple of years: Taking singles and doubles players into account, will the Bryan Brothers win a wider range of major tournaments than anyone in the history of the Open Era? And if so, does this make them true legends of the game, and put them up there in a class with Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, etc.?
Winning the Italian Open this weekend gave them their eighth different Masters shield (out of nine possible); the only place they've missed out at is their "home" tournament in Indian Wells, Calif. Already having a career Slam and winning the end-of-the-year championships puts them pretty close to being in a class by themselves. Winning a Davis Cup, too, last year only helps their cause. The only other big title they're missing besides Indian Wells is the Olympics, which if they don't pull it off this year, I think they could still have a decent shot at the Gold in 2012.
I'll do a brief comparison against some of their peers past and present, on both the singles and doubles sides, which if you were to look at it, shows how the Bryans are close to doing something of epic proportions. I'll start with some of the best doubles teams and players:
• The Woodies: Career Slam, Olympic Gold, Davis Cup and sheer dominance. But the Aussie pair fell short by a couple of Masters shields and can't do anything about that now because they're both retired.
• Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis: A career Slam for the Dutchmen, but not a sniff of a Davis Cup or Gold at the Olympics.
• Jonas Bjorkman: A career Slam, Davis Cup and only one Masters shield away from winning them all. However, time definitely isnt on the side of the Swedish veteran. I don't think he has much of a shot at the Olympics this year, and the Kevin Ullyett partnership doesn't appear to be paying off so far as to where he'll get a shot at the lone Masters title eluding him.
• John McEnroe and anybody: Isn't that the old answer for "Who's the best doubles team out there?" Well, he played most of his career with Peter Fleming and while they were pretty dominant, there are a lot of major titles missing from their resumes.
Now, the singles players:
• Andre Agassi: I'm starting with him because he's the only male singles player of the Open era with a career Slam, Olympics Gold and the Davis Cup; plus he has a ton of different Masters shields, but he doesn't have as many as the Bryan Brothers, missing out on Monte Carlo and Hamburg.
• Pete Sampras and Roger Federer: I'm lumping these two together because while they're considered two of the greatest across any era, they're nowhere close to doing what Andre did, which I think doesn't get discussed enough. Pete never won the French or the Olympics, and while Roger might pick up the French before it's all said and done and the Olympics, too, there's no way he's going to win the Davis Cup.
I've mentioned it before where I think the Bryans should have way more Slams than they do, but what they've achieved in the game is nothing short of amazing. Not to pump up the hyperbole, but what do you say if they bag Indian Wells and the Olympics (which personally, I think the only thing they should think about the rest of the year is Beijing)? Do you say they're two of the best athletes in all of sports? Something to think about.
An old friend of mine and I used to talk tennis for hours, whether it was our own games or what was happening in the pros. I've started Tennis Talk, Anyone? to, well, talk tennis with an even broader crowd! My name is Van Sias and I've been playing for 20 years now, and not only am I player, I'm a huge fan of the game as well: pro, amateur, you name it. I'll post links to news items related to the sport, and offer my own personal opinion, predictions and hopefully get some of yours as well.