By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Bob Bryan gave fair warning to the tennis world almost 101⁄2 years ago.
“We’re going to get a grand slam this year,” he said. “That’s our goal. We’ve been in the semis a few times the last couple of years. We’re knocking on the door. It’s time to take one.”
Bryan made those remarks on Feb. 9, 2003, just moments after winning the singles championship in the $50,000 USTA Freeman Challenger Tournament at the Millennium Tennis & Fitness Center.
Just four months later, the Bryan twins — Bob and Mike — won their first Grand Slam at the French Open.
The Bryans picked up Grand Slam No. 15 on Saturday when they won Wimbledon. Parlayed with their U.S. Open championship last September and the Australian Open and French Open crowns earlier this year, they are the first doubles team in the Open era (since 1968) to hold all four majors at the same time.
In addition, the Bryans won the gold medal in the Olympics last year — also at Wimbledon’s hallowed Centre Court.
The Bryans now have 91 professional doubles titles. During the last nine years, they have appeared in 22 of 35 Grand Slam doubles finals, winning 14.
The Bryans won more than 100 doubles titles as juniors. They helped Stanford win NCAA team championships in 1997 and 1998. In ’98 Bob captured the “Triple Crown” by winning NCAA singles, doubles (with Mike) and team titles.
Ironically, it was their inability to play doubles that brought Bob to Millennium for the Challenger tournament 10 years ago.
“Mike hurt his wrist and couldn’t practice for the week,” Bob said. “I said ... I’m coming to Joplin. I was going to get one match, maybe two. You can play all you want in practice, but there’s nothing like a tournament set.”
Plus, “I had some (frequent flyer) miles, got a free plane flight and came to Joplin,” Bob said. “Maybe if I didn’t have the miles, I wouldn’t have come.”
Bob, who is two minutes younger than Mike, got to play much more than the one or two matches he expected in Joplin.
He won three matches in a qualifying tournament to earn a spot on the 32-man main draw.
And once the tournament began, he beat Americans Jesse Witten and Eric Taino in the first two rounds, Alexandre Simoni of Brazil 6-0, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, Sebastien de Chaunac of France 7-6 (4), 6-1 in the semifinals and fellow southern Californian Kevin Kim 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in the final, worth $7,200.
But Bob Bryan knew his tennis future was in doubles.
“Doubles are a little more fun because I’m playing with my brother,” he said. “There’s nothing like winning a tennis match with my brother. It’s satisfying to come off the court and be able to share it with Mike.”