Mini bumps in the road for Bryans

NEW YORK -- It's the Bryan brothers' signature move: the running chest bump.

When they are motivated and energized -- and, frankly when aren't they? -- it can be a soaring thing of majestic beauty. Which belies the degree of difficulty involved.

The secret? Being identical twins doesn't hurt them.

"You have to see the twinkle in the other twin's eyes," said Mike Bryan.

"You have to be on the same page, for sure," Bob said. "Definitely have to get a few steps to lift off to get enough height. And it does help that we're the same size, because if I'm chest-bumping you I'm breaking your nose every time. It's going to be a disaster."

This last observation was directed at the reporter who asked the question.

There were no disasters late Monday night, when the 35-year-olds from California finally took the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium after a long rain delay and a long match from Rafael Nadal.

Sure, they had to fight off a few set points in the opening frame, but they settled down and handled the British team of Colin Fleming and Jonathan Marray, 7-6 (7), 6-4.

The match was televised nationally -- something unusual for doubles.

Thus, the Bryans won their fourth match here to advance to the semifinals. With two more wins, they can make some special history.

Bob and Mike have now won 33 consecutive matches in their past five majors, plus the Olympics. They currently are holders of all four major titles and can win a fifth straight on Sunday after the women's final. That would give them the calendar-year Grand Slam, something that hasn't been done in men's tennis since 1951.

In doubles, everyone has a backstory. Even so, Fleming and Marray's is unusual.

Fleming's previous partner, Ross Hutchins, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma at the end of 2012. At the same time, Marray had split with Frederik Nielsen, who wanted to play singles. So you had two guys from Great Britain -- Fleming (29) was Scottish and Marray (32) was English -- in need of a partner.

They debuted as a Davis Cup team back in April and, facing a 0-2 team deficit, won their match and started a stunning 3-2 comeback against Russia. And although they lost their first ATP match together (in Miami) and their first major match (Roland Garros), they have become something of a team. They reached the third round at Wimbledon and made the finals this summer in Washington and Montreal.

This was only their third Grand Slam as a team.

The Bryans had the better of it for much of the first set, but Fleming and Marray scuffled to save five set points and force a tiebreaker. Facing a set point at 5-6, Bob Bryan ended the point of the match --- and possibly the tournament -- with a crushing forehand. It was a ping-pong rally, requiring 21 strokes, and it prompted a rare in-game chest bump.

The Brits had another set point, but Marray's poach attempt missed wide and it was 7-all. A double-fault by Fleming gave the Bryans the last look they needed. Marray couldn't handle Bob Bryan's serve, hitting it long, and the Bryans had won their second critical tiebreaker in four matches.

The Bryans broke Fleming in the seventh game of the second set and that was enough to send them off with the match.

It's probably worth mentioning that Marray is half of the last team to beat the Bryans in a Grand Slam. He and Nielsen came out of nowhere in a four-set stunner last year at Wimbledon that saw the Bryans go down in a tiebreaker, 7-5. They went on to win the title.

There was no upset this time, and when the fourth match point was converted, the resulting chest bump wasn't anything spectacular (there was far less air than usual) beyond clean and efficient.

Today, the Bryans have honed their technique to an astonishing extent. They say it's due to the numerous photo and commercial shoots that sometimes require 50 to 100 takes.

Early in their careers, however, it didn't always go so smoothly.

"We had a couple ugly ones," Bob said.

Said Mike, "[The] cover of Tennis Magazine was an ugly one. It looks actually pretty cool because Bob s flying in, but I'm only getting this far off the ground. I actually cramped on the takeoff. Bob is flying in and just crushes me in the head, knocks me on the ground almost.

"That was one of our worst."

In 1998, their rookie season, the brothers got tangled up after they saved a few match points in Miami.

"Mike kind of grabbed me," said Bob, "which is a no-no. I came down on his foot and sprained the crap out of my ankle. I was on crutches for a few days."

There was a college collision at Stanford that left Mike, according to Mike, with a broken sternum.

"I don't know if I broke his sternum," Bob said. "Bruised it. He was actually struggling breathing for a couple of days."