This year at the 2012 Olympics in London, there will be a certain gold medal up for grabs for the first time since 1924. That’s how long it has been since tennis mixed doubles has been a featured event in the Summer Olympics. When the new medal for tennis players was announced, eyes immediately shot to Serena Williams, the only woman who would make her team the odds-on favorite to win.
Prior to the French Open—where both Venus and Serena were ousted in the first round—there seemed to be no viable candidates for partnering with Williams. But recently one has emerged: Bob Bryan. While Bryan is not a household name, he and his brother Mike have formed the best men’s doubles team in the last decade, having claimed both the Wimbledon and Australian Open titles last year. Williams’s agent contacted Bryan a few months before the French Open to see if he would be interested in competing in the mixed doubles tournament there. His answer was a whole-hearted yes.
The pair caught up face to face in Madrid. “She said something like, ‘If we do well and we get our mojo going, maybe we can roll it into the Olympics,’” Bryan said, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
In the professional circuit, mixed doubles traditionally takes a backseat to male and female singles and doubles events, but with a gold medal on the line, the competition will be stiffer than usual. Last year’s women’s Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova will pair with fellow Czech radek Stepanek, who is ranked number 23 in the world among the men, and took home this year’s Australian Open doubles crown. Even in this tough crowd, Williams is the most sought after woman in mixed due to her powerful serve and returns, which are comparable to players on the men’s side.
After William’s took an early exit in the singles tournament in Paris, she sent Bryan an email saying she wanted to practice. If Williams is truly committed to Bryan as a mixed partner for 2012, the pressure will be on him to maintain their status as the number one threat.
“I really want to play well for Serena this tournament,” Bryan said. “Usually before mixed I’m sitting on the computer with a banana in my hand and it’s like, ‘Oh my God, it’s time for mixed?’ And then I put on my shoes and I go out there. I’ll definitely go down to the gym this time and do some stretching, maybe five minutes on the bike.”