Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, the most decorated men’s doubles tennis pair of all time, have pulled out of the Rio Olympics less than a week before the Games are set to begin.
The Bryans made the decision Friday night after their quarterfinals loss at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, citing health concerns that have also prompted other athletes to skip Rio. This would’ve been the duo’s fourth Olympics after they made their debut 12 years ago in Athens, followed by a bronze medal in Beijing in 2008 and a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
“After countless hours of deliberation, Mike and I have decided to forego the Rio Olympics,” Bob Bryan said Saturday in a statement to The Washington Post. “Though we’d love to compete again, as husbands and fathers, our family’s health is now our top priority.
“Representing Team USA is one of our proudest tennis moments to date and winning gold in 2012 will always remain the pinnacle of our career. …We wish every athlete luck in their quest for Olympic glory and hope the Rio Games are a positive experience for everyone involved.”
The U.S. Tennis Association is looking at various scenarios on how to replace the Bryan brothers either from players currently on the singles roster or player(s) not yet named to the Olympic team and will finalize its plans by late Sunday. The next highest ranked American men’s doubles players are Jack Sock, who is playing singles in Rio, and Rajeev Ram.
“Our wives were involved, our parents were involved and it’s the toughest decision we’ve probably ever made,” Bob Bryan added in an interview with The Post. “But ultimately we feel better about it.”
The loss of the Bryans, both 38, is just the latest setback for Team USA’s tennis prospects after men’s singles players John Isner and Sam Querrey withdrew earlier this year to focus on the summer hard court season, which culminates with the U.S. Open later next month.
Querrey, an Olympian in 2008 now ranked 29th in the world, suggested that the Olympics should cut tennis, which returned as a full medal sport in 1988 after a 64-year hiatus.
“For tennis and golf, the Olympics isn’t a top priority,” he said at last week’s Citi Open tournament in Washington. “We have four other Grand Slams. Those kind of take the precedent. Those are the main focus for us.”
“Tennis in the Olympics is cool,” he added. “I don’t necessarily think it maybe should be an Olympic sport. Some sports in the Olympics — that and golf — you know, I feel like maybe shouldn’t be in there. It just wasn’t a priority of mine at all.”
Isner, the top-ranked American at No. 16 in the world, has shared the same sentiments. He played at the Olympics in 2012, but decided early this year that his priority is preparing himself for the U.S. Open, the last Grand Slam of the year.
“Tennis is not really a traditional Olympic sport,” Isner told The Post in February. “If you ask Roger [Federer], I don’t think he dreamed of winning Olympic gold. He probably dreamed of winning Wimbledon seven times, like he has. …Our biggest events are the Grand Slams and are always going to be the Grand Slams.”
The Rio Olympics have been mired in controversy, with concerns over the Zika virus and various health issues as reasons why some athletes are choosing not to attend. Other high-ranked players, including Canada’s Milos Raonic, Czech Tomas Berdych and Belinda Bencic of Switzerland are also skipping the Games.
Raonic, a Wimbledon finalist and world No. 7, and Berdych, the world No. 8, cited their concerns over the Zika virus, while Bencic said she wanted to focus on the U.S. Open.
Doctors from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said recently that the risk of contracting the Zika virus is low for those traveling to Rio, but officials still advised pregnant women or women who could get pregnant to avoid attending the Games.