By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com
PARIS - Bob and Mike Bryan keep setting new goals and appear to be playing well enough to achieve them. After their 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-6 (3) victory over Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Rohan Bopanna in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros, the 33-year-old brothers are just two matches from winning their second Roland Garros title and if they do, they will tie Australians Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge for the most Open Era Grand Slam titles ever at 11. They would love to break that mark.
"We are focusing on the French and Wimby this year and want to try and double the [title count] up," Bob said. "I feel like we are good as anyone on the surface."
The quarterfinal victory did not come easy as the match had been suspended for darkness at 5-5 the night before. Both of the twins decided to pop Advil PMs so they could sleep, but Bob was tossing and turning nonetheless.
"It was hard to sleep because you are thinking of every serve you can hit," said Bob. "You can drop in a game plan. I knew I had four serves that we drew up. My mom and dad (Kathy and Wayne, both former touring pros) watched the match and they had some stuff for us. They changed up their tactics when they started so everyone added a new wrinkle into the match."
Mike and Bob made sure to come out on court in a full sweat as they wanted to make sure they didn't get off to a slow start in a contest that could end in minutes.
"We decided to max out every point, so you just let yourself fly," said Mike.
Bob made sure that he was into the contest from the first ball toss. He recalled a match he had lost in the last round of qualies in singles at the 2000 Australian Open to Kevin Ullyett, where he went back on court with the game score tied at 15-15.
"I had a break point like any other match and he came out sweating and chomping at the bit and held and broke me," Bob recalled. "He was the veteran and he got me there."
The California-born, hard-court loving Bryan won their first Grand Slam in Paris in 2003. They have become very adept on the surface and actually enjoy the different strategies, positioning and footwork that goes into winning titles on clay. This year, they've won three clay court titles in Houston, Monte-Carlo and Madrid.
Since their 2003 title run, the Bryans have some reasonably successful but ultimately disappointing weeks at Roland Garros, falling in three setters for the next seven years, and twice in the finals in 2005 and 2006. Last year Brazilians Marcelo Mello and Bruno Sores stunned the perennial No. 1's.
"We've lost some tough ones here and we think we could have won three or four. We are stuck on one and it makes us more eager to get over the hump," Bob said.
The twins will be favored in their semifinal against the unseeded team of Juan Cabal of Colombia and Eduardo Schwank of Argentina, but they know they must be wary of any duo that can rip calls from the baseline on clay. Fortunately for the Bryans, the weather has been dry this year and the balls are harder and playing faster.
Last summer in L.A., the Bryans broke the Woodies’ overall title mark with their 62nd team title and in Madrid last month, they ran their total to 71. But it's the Woodies' Slam mark that is front and center.
"We've been looking at that since the Aussie Open and we've talked about it a little bit and that's another huge record and I consider that as big as the titles record," Bob said. "That would be awesome. Hopefully we'll get it done sooner than later."
The Bryans have won the last two majors at the 2010 US Open and the 2011 Aussie Open, but they are no lock to win Roland Garros. Two top flight veteran teams that they know very well, second seeds Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor and fourth seeds Michael Llodra and Nenad Zimonjic, loom on the other side of the draw.
"I consider those two teams the best two," said Bob. "If we make it to the finals we'll know we have to play our best and that sometimes takes the pressure off. You have to go for your shots."
While the Bryans have racked up plenty of titles and accolades, they still haven't accomplished one great feat that over the past decade has been done by one of their compatriots, Serena Williams, who in 2002-2003 won four straight majors beginning at 2002 Roland Garros and ending at the 2003 Australian Open. She called the non-calendar year feat the "Serena Slam."
It sounds good to the twins.
"We are just eight winning matches away from the 'Bryans Slam', said Bob with laugh.