Published January 23, 2011
| Associated Press
The world's best men's doubles pair, American twins Mike and Bob Bryan, have been making mini-movies from behind the scenes of international tennis and posting them online, where they are getting a growing following.
The idea started when the brothers, who beat Benjamin Becker and Michael Kohlmann of Germany 7-5, 6-2 Sunday to stay on track for their 10th career Grand Slam, made some video recordings for a sports TV channel during last year's U.S. Open, and the reaction from fans prompted them to do more.
They're now posting occasional spots on a videoblog, with episodes from the ATP World Tour finals and, the latest, from a charity tour late last year. In it, the Bryans chase Mardy Fish down a New York street, paparazzi-style, and get wedding plan tips from retired American women's star Lindsay Davenport.
"I think it is a great insight into players when they are just relaxed and having fun, when they are not on the court or having a microphone in their face, when they're just talking like friends," Bob Bryan said.
They are not shooting video at the Australian Open, but there is already material in the can from Bob Bryan's wedding in December.
The brothers say the movies are all in fun, and many players are happy to be involved. Still, there are some times when even a familiar face is not welcome if they have a camera, and some players just aren't into it.
"Obviously they hate to see a camera in their face in the locker room," Mike Bryan said. "Usually it's just lighthearted, but you don't want to do it too much."
While some players are natural comedians who like to ham it up, others are just not into it.
"You do it to players that you know enjoy it," said Mike Bryan, nominating Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick as particularly extroverted. "I would never do it to (Roger) Federer or (Raphael) Nadal before a match. There are boundaries that you can't cross, but a lot of guys enjoy it."
SPEED TEST: Twenty-four players have clocked serves at more than 130.5 mph during the first week of the Australian Open. Next on the list? A couple of guys named Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
The serve — especially the all-guns-blazing first one — is without doubt one of the most powerful shots any player owns, and Nadal and Federer are no slouches.
But the absence of the world No. 1 and No. 2, who have 25 Grand Slam titles between them, from the group that fires fastest just underscores the point that speed isn't everything.
Canadian qualifier Milos Raonic has fired the quickest serve so far this year at Melbourne Park — a hurricane-fast 142.9 mph. John Isner is next at 141 mph, followed by fellow American Andy Roddick at 137.9 mph and Australian Carsten Ball and Spain's Fernando Verdasco at 137.3 mph apiece. Roddick holds the record for the fastest serve in tennis, a stunning 155 mph during a 2004 Davis Cup match.
For the record, Federer's fastest serve hit 135.5 mph, just edging Nadal's at 135 mph.
DO A LITTLE DANCE: Andrea Petkovic had just beaten Nadia Petrova in a tough three-set match at last year's U.S. Open when her coach reminded her about a pre-match promise to do something different if she won.
The hip-shaking wiggle that followed has become a good-luck charm she has used ever since, and she credits it with helping her reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open.
A former political science student who defied her parents wishes to pursue a tennis career, Petkovic also has been winning over crowds in Australia with her bright smile, upbeat attitude, and the courtside dance that has become known as "The Petko."
"It started off as a bet with my coach," she told the crowd in a courtside interview. "At the U.S. Open I was playing terrible. I got to the first round and he said, 'OK, if you win this you have to do something special.'
"I won 7-6 in the third and I wanted to flee the court. But my coach said, 'Hey, the dance.' So I did a little this," she said, demonstrating a step or two, to loud cheers from the crowd.
"It became so famous. Also, I am superstitious — I have played much better since I do the dance," she said. "So, everybody, if something is not going his way or her way, they should start dancing. It helps."
She said her father, Zoran, who played Davis Cup twice for Yugoslavia in the 1980s before moving his family to Germany, tried to talk her out of chasing a tennis career because of the pressures of the tour. He was all smiles in the stands Sunday.
Sharapova, a three-time Grand Slam winner still trying to regain her top form since coming back from an extended injury break in 2008-09, described Sunday's match as a bad day at the office, but said she would keep it in perspective.
"I think I can say there are a lot of more painful things in life than losing a tennis match," the Russian said. "There's a lot more in life than hitting a tennis ball. We're all pretty fortunate to be able to do what we do, win or lose. Obviously wins bring you a lot of smiles and laughter, but this is sport."