Now comes the tough part for the Bryan twins.
Bob and Mike made things hard on themselves by leading Stanford to a national tennis championship two weeks ago.
They complicated matters by completing a rare sweep--Bob won the NCAA singles title and paired with Mike for the doubles crown.
Now, having conquered college tennis, the Cardinal sophomores must decide whether to turn professional.
“We’re starting to think about it more and more,” Bob said. “We’re really going to have to weigh the options.”
Tall and thin, with faces that have not aged all that much since they were stars at Rio Mesa High, the Bryans appear younger than 20. Yet they are veterans of three U.S. Opens and are looked upon as a potential doubles team of the future for the U.S. Davis Cup squad.
So the brothers, who are not expected to announce their decision until later this month, appear to be leaning toward leaving school.
“We feel we’ve done all we can do in college,” Bob said.
Their sense of satisfaction is understandable.
Stanford was 28-0 in dual matches entering the NCAA team championship in Athens, Ga., late last month. There were some tense moments as the team began its final match against the hometown Georgia Bulldogs at Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
“There were 6,500 fans screaming, going nuts on every point,” Bob said. “We knew we were the better team, but none of us had played before that sort of crowd.”
Still, the Cardinal won handily. And when the individual competition began the next day, Bob was seeded sixth in the singles.
‘You’re out till the late hours partying, then you come back flat,” he said. “The other guy, all he’s thinking about is beating me. All I’m thinking about is winning the team title the day before.”
If there was a turning point, it came in the second round as Bob watched Mike lose on an adjacent court and thought “I don’t want that to happen to me.”
He ultimately defeated senior teammate Paul Goldstein, 6-3, 6-2, in the final. Ninety minutes later, he and Mike beat Kelly Gullett and Robert Lindstedt of Pepperdine in three sets.
The doubles title offered evidence the twins have matured on court.
“They came here physically very young,” Stanford Coach Dick Gould said. “They got stronger and were able to change their game to an attacking game, an all-court game.”
Mike explained: “Last year we came into college a little tentative. We were staying back on returns, not really hitting the ball. We would just kick in the first serve.
“Now we’re banging the first serve, banging the returns,” he said. “We’re not afraid to miss a few.”
That aggressiveness could serve them well on the pro circuit. Their decision might be hastened by the departure of a number of top Pac-10 players, including Goldstein.
The twins have won team championships in both their years at Stanford and, if they decide to leave early, they will join a long line of Cardinal stars who have done likewise.
“We’ve lost John McEnroe, Roscoe Tanner, Sandy Mayer, Nick Saviano,” Gould said. “After 32 years, I’m used to it.”
But Gould said he worries about underclassmen who take on the rigors of the tour.
“One of my biggest fears is that there would be an injury,” the coach said. “You go out and play one event after another. You don’t take that week or 10-day break.
“Pretty soon, you get hurt.”
The Bryans, for their part, are thinking about all the good times they might miss over the next two years at school.
Bob talks wistfully about his girlfriend on campus and the joys of fraternity life. Mike says the past two years have been “the best years of our lives.”
“I’m trying to cherish every moment [at school] in case we decide to turn pro,” he said.
Bob added: “They are really going to have to give us some numbers before I throw this college experience away. It’s going to take a lot of money.”