Tennis Doubles GOATs The Bryan Brothers: ‘Loyalty Trumps Winning’

In this episode of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, the undisputed greatest men’s doubles partnership of all time share the secret to their extraordinary 23-year run that defined, and even helped to save, the sport they love.

While debates over the greatest tennis singles player of all time can rage on without end, the GOAT of tennis doubles belongs simply and unarguably to a pair of identical twins born a few minutes apart named Mike and Bob Bryan—better known to tennis fans as The Bryan Brothers.

When they retired from professional tennis in 2020, they held 118 doubles titles and 16 grand slam doubles championships to their name. They spent 439 weeks ranked #1 in the world, which doubled the streak of any other duo. And while singles tennis tends to capture the popular imagination more than doubles, the brothers’ infectious energy on court earned them the ATP Tour “fan favorites” for 13 consecutive years.

What most fans didn’t know, however, was that these charismatic geniuses of the court valued their relationship more than winning, offering a fitting lesson for any leader who knows that how you react to your teammates when you lose can determine how well you improve to win the next time.

“We had extreme loyalty towards each other, which gave us the freedom to make mistakes,” noted Bob in the podcast. “In a corporate setting, it’s up to the team leader to mediate that dynamic and create an environment where everyone feels they have the freedom to have a bad spell.”

Not that the Bryans suffered tons of bad spells. But when they did, they made sure to learn from it and remind themselves that their comfort with risk-taking gave them a competitive advantage. “When you’re playing it safe is when you’re vulnerable,” they concurred. “We never let mistakes or failures stop us from communicating and taking more risks. This made us dangerous.”

Indeed, it did. And in the podcast, tennis buffs and business leaders, alike, will learn how they can put a little topspin on their competitive mindset with deep dives into such questions as:

• What their legendary Stanford coach Dick Gould taught the Bryans about “respecting your competition and always having a game plan,” even when you think you’re better.

• How the Bryans helped save doubles from being axed from tournament play and made tennis’s appeal stronger as a result.

• Why the brothers’ greatest runs often came after their most “heartbreaking defeats.”

“I always felt like we improved with our losses,” said Mike. “In doubles tennis, you’re both equal partners, but a great coach or leader of any team should be able to prevent little feuds arising between teammates. You have to be able to speak truth to each other, but with empathy.”

Over the last 30 years, longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated and 11-time New York Times Best-Selling Author Don Yaeger has been blessed to interview the greatest winners of our generation. He has made a second career as a keynote speaker and executive coach, discerning habits of high performance to teach teams how to reach their full potential.