Heading into the 2013 U.S. Open, 35-year-old American twins Bob and Mike Bryan stand on the verge of a feat rarer than any other in tennis, as they attempt to complete the first ever men’s doubles calendar grand slam in the Open era.
Since grand slam tennis went professional in 1968, calendar grand slams - winning the Australian, French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles in a single year - have been achieved in men’s singles, women’s singles, and women’s doubles, but never in men’s doubles.
You have to go back all the way to 1951 when Australians Ken McGregor and Frank Sedgman ran the table at the majors for the one and only time this feat was accomplished.
Sixty-two years later, the Bryan brothers head into the U.S. Open with an opportunity to make history, having already claimed the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon championships.
And yet, during this remarkable run, which also includes the 2012 U.S. Open and Olympic games, barely more than a match or two has been broadcast on television.
More often than not, television coverage will jump into a Bryan brothers match at match point, and to that extent, on a time delay to ensure that the point in question was indeed the final point of the contest.
Sadly, this doesn’t flow against the tide of tradition when it comes to doubles on television. Simply put, doubles just doesn't get the attention or TV coverage it deserves.
The long-standing argument against showing doubles on TV is that the viewing public neither knows the players nor cares about the sport.
It's the same argument given for the majority of women's sports, soccer in the United States, the NFL in Europe and a myriad of other emerging sports.
The obvious counter argument is, how will they ever get to know or care, if they’re not exposed to them?
Recreationally, the vast majority of active tennis players the world over are doubles players, and with tennis being one of the largest participatory sport in the world, that's one giant potential media market.
So why aren't any of the major sporting networks willing to devote a fair portion of their tennis coverage to the four-player format of the game?
Well, it's a risk.
In order to reduce this risk, ideally what the networks need is a doubles pairing to build their coverage around who the general public can really get behind. A pair with charisma and talent, entertaining and media-friendly, and above all else, wins.
But where are we going to find a pair like that?
For the best part of the last decade the Bryan brothers have been the most dominate doubles team on the planet.
They've won a staggering 91 titles (six more than Roger Federer), 15 of which were grand slams (one more than Pete Sampras) and have spent well over 300 weeks at the top of the world rankings, (several weeks more than Federer’s record), and are still at the top of their game in their mid-thirties.
Plus they're in a band, and what's cooler than that?
The chest-bumping, crowd-pleasing Bryan brothers are, in a nutshell, the greatest doubles partnership of all time.
And yet, in their home country, they are barely known outside the tennis world.
This summer, as the Bryan brothers look to build on their already unprecedented legacy and claim the calendar grand slam, TV networks are provided with the best opportunity there may ever be to promote doubles both globally and in the United States.
This year’s U.S. Open will also mark a full decade since Andy Roddick claimed the last of the U.S.’s men’s singles majors, and the chances of this run being broken at this year’s tournament are slim to none. So just as the Brits built their Wimbledon coverage around Andy Murray, and the world took notice, now the U.S. should do with the same with the Bryan twins.
Surely they can find time during the wall-to-wall coverage for six, best-of-three-set matches spread over two weeks?
If you broadcast it, they will watch.