By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com
MELBOURNE -- Just seven weeks ago, while driving to a match at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London, Bob and Mike Bryan weren't sure what they were doing there and why they weren't asking the driver to turn around.
"We looked at each other and said, 'What are we playing for?'" said Bob. "We're No. 1 and playing a round robin, and it's hard to get juices flowing."
Now the world's No. 1 team knows why they stuck around, as on Saturday, they will go for their fifth Australian Open title after a 6-3, 6-2 victory over fellow American Eric Butorac and Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands Antilles in the semis.
The Bryans were rock solid in the match, nailing 23 winners and committing just two unforced errors. They fought off all four break points that they faced and broke Butorac-Roger three times, largely because they were able to pounce on their foes' second serves, winning 11 of 15 points while returning second serves.
"It was tricky in the beginning because they had three break points, were making a lot of serves, and we had one opportunity and we got it," said Mike. "We're a great front-running team and have the belief that we can get on top and stay there. You can see once we broke them that they were different and their returns started to go off. When you beat two guys a lot, it's tough for them. Eric has played us tough but hasn't beaten us yet, but he'll eventually get his. Everyone has."
Actually, there are some notable teams that have never gotten a win over the Bryans, but somewhat more important to the 32-year-old twins is their edge over their compatriots.
"We like to beat the other American guys," said Mike with a laugh.
In the final, the Bryans will face another popular team, the "Indian Express," Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes, who have teamed up again for the first time in seven years and own a slew of titles together, including two Grand Slams.
"We haven't played them since 2001 [they split matches in Atlanta and Queens], and they are great for doubles. It will be a feisty match," said Bob. "When you are playing a good team, you have to play your best, but I feel more pressure playing a team like that than today, when we played a team we are supposed to beat."
Mike added that the Indians have as much energy as they do on court and believes that part of winning doubles is showing some attitude.
"Leander carries the attitude, and Bhupathi is more of a quiet leader," he said. "We'll see flashy shots from Leander, some consistent shots from Bhupathi and lots of chest bumps. We get more air on chest bumps, but they'll do it throughout the match. We played Paes and Martin Damm in 2006, and they did like 55 chest bumps."
Paes doesn't back off confrontations, and in the second round, he got into a major spat with Spaniards Juan Monaco and Feliciano Lopez over his use of the word "Vamos" to celebrate. He didn't apologize and will do whatever it takes to score a win.
"Leander comes out and struts his stuff, but he has the right to because he's the magic man," Mike said. "He's in your face, close to net, snapping off balls with his head high, but so do we. Tempers kind of flare. We had a few years we didn't get along too well on court, but usually we drop it. Hopefully it will be cordial out there, but we will be fired up."
The Bryans have no plans of retiring soon, even though Bob just got married, and Mike now lives with his girlfriend. They've seen successful players, such as Jacco Eltingh, retire prematurely and then get the competition bug again, only to come back as lesser players. Their plan is to maximize their careers.
"Everyone thinks it's a tough life and then you quit and are at home, and then the adrenaline comes back and they want to get back out there," Mike said. "We don't want to leave that all on the table."
The twins won't commit to playing until they are 40 but say they are locked in until at least the age of 35, through the end of the 2013 season, when their K-Swiss contract expires.
"It's tough to leave when you are winning and having fun," Bob said. "We don't have an exit strategy and still have goals. Davis Cup is still in the picture. There's a lot of stuff."
One of those things is to reign supreme again at the Australian Open on Saturday and continue to creep up on Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge's record Grand Slam title haul.
"This is our most successful tournament, and when we walk out there, it feels like our home court," Mike said. "Seven out of eight years in the finals - it's unbelievable. To win our 10th Grand Slam would be awesome, and to win three in a row would be extra sweet."