Bryans ready to hold court against Roddick brothers

The Baltimore Sun

The sight of Andy Roddick playing doubles with his brother John might be unfamiliar to most of the tennis fans who gather tonight at 1st Mariner Arena for the PNC Tennis Classic. But fortunately for Bob and Mike Bryan, the world's No. 1 doubles team, it's an act they've seen before.

"We played them in Charleston, [S.C.], last year," Bob Bryan said. "They don't play together very often, but they know how to play. We just clipped them. It was a pretty close match."

Their doubles match will follow the feature match between Andy Roddick, No. 5 in the ATP singles standings, and fast-rising John Isner. The PNC Tennis Classic, Pam Shriver's charity event that supports children's charities in the Baltimore area, begins at 7 p.m.

The Bryans were in the marquee match here a year ago and said they had such a good time, they are happy to return. They consider Shriver a "great friend" and are appreciative of her having made them last year's headliners.

"It was the first time we'd had that experience outside our local area," Mike Bryan said. "It was awesome and gave us such a good feeling. We're happy to have another chance to help Pam's charities and hang out with her."

Everyone knows Andy Roddick, a winner of the U.S. Open, but his brother John is removed from the limelight. He is one of Andy's coaches, with Jimmy Connors. Before that, John was the one many expected to be the pro star.

At the University of Georgia, said Isner, a fellow Georgia alumnus, John Roddick is a legend.

"He graduated from Georgia when I was a junior in high school," Isner, 22, said. "I didn't even know about Georgia then. But when I went there, I heard all about John and what a great player he was. I've gotten to know him real well now."

John Roddick was the No. 1 college player in the country as a senior at Georgia, and Bob Bryan remembers the hype that surrounded him.

"He was the brother who was going to make it," he said. "Andy was just a little rug rat. But John hurt his back the first year he was on the tour and now Andy is the hot shot."

On the singles court, anyway. No players are bigger hot shots at doubles than the Bryans. The twins have already clinched the ATP Doubles Race for the third consecutive year and the fourth time in the past five years.

The only other team to finish No. 1 three straight years is Australian legends Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde (1995-1997). Only "The Woodies" have won more year-ending doubles titles, as the duo finished No. 1 five times.

This year, the Bryans clinched a little differently, wrapping up the season title well before the end of the year. They've already won a career-high eight tournaments this season and have a 64-9 record, having reached the final in 12 of 18 tournaments.

"Every year we set out with one main goal: to finish No. 1," Mike Bryan said. "I think we played some of the best tennis of our careers and worked hard to improve."

Bob said improvement has come in his return of serve and in Mike's serve.

"Right now, we feel we don't have a lot of weaknesses," Bob said. "But clinching this early this year is something different for us. Usually it goes down to the wire. To have it won now, it will be hard to play the last four tournaments this year. But it will allow us to concentrate more on getting ready for Davis Cup."

The United States will play defending champion Russia in the Davis Cup finals Nov. 30-Dec. 2 in Portland, Ore. The United States hasn't won the Davis Cup since 1995, and this will be the first time the Americans have hosted the final in 15 years.

"We've already had 100 ticket requests," Bob Bryan said. "People we haven't talked to in 10 years are asking us for tickets. But it's so exciting. It's been so long since our country has played for it, and Mike and I feel we want to win it now while we're at the top of our game, because you never know what's going to happen next year.

"I know Andy [who is also on the team, as is James Blake]; it's on the top of Andy's list, too."

But for tonight's match, Andy Roddick and his brother are the opposition.

"We're competitive people," Bob Bryan said. "We hate to lose and there is pride on the line here. I don't think they want to stir us up."

If you go

What: PNC Tennis Classic presented by The Baltimore Sun

Where: 1st Mariner Arena

When: Tonight, 7

Matches: Andy Roddick vs. John Isner; followed by doubles match between Mike and Bob Bryan and Andy and John Roddick (John Roddick, who helps coach his brother, played at the University of Georgia); Orioles Challenge doubles.

Tickets: From $25 to $110. May be purchased through Ticketmaster (410-547-7328), at arena box office or by calling tournament office at 410-296-2929.

Benefits: Proceeds will be distributed among Baltimore-area children's charities.

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