During the coronavirus lockdown, a little road trip sounds appealing. But driving coast to coast from Southern California to Miami with your wife and three kids under eight? That’s a 3,000 mile journey that would give any family pause.
There could come a time, however, when Bob Bryan may not have a choice. Bob, wife Michelle and children Micaela (8), Bobby Jr. (6) and Richie (4) have been stranded in Bob’s childhood hometown of Camarillo since heading west in early March for the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
“I’ve pushed our flight home back four times now; fortunately, there are no change fees,” Bob tells ATPTour.com. “It’s a little bit too risky to fly right now, especially with the kids who don’t know anything about the germs. I can imagine Richie going through security touching everything and then licking his hands.
“We have talked about getting an RV and driving it home. That would be quite the adventure.”
Having rented a comfortable AirBnB surrounded by plenty of green space close to twin brother Mike and his parents, Bob and family are about as comfortable as they can be while under home confinement.
Michelle also had the foresight to bring 10 pieces of luggage, including a keyboard and guitar. So there’s no rush to get back to their condo in Sunny Isles, just north of Miami, especially when Mike and his wife Nadia are expecting their first child any day now.
“If we go home it’s going to be the same. We are going to be quarantined,” says Bob, who turns 42 next Wednesday. “During this time you want to see your family, but it’s not possible. My parents are just down the road but they are both in their 70s so we are staying away from them.
“They have come by a couple of times and we just talk to them from 15 to 20 feet away. The kids run to hug them but we hold them back. Mike is right here too but we have not had any contact with him. Nadia is pregnant so we don’t want to mess around. It’s just a very unusual time. We may never see another time like this in our lifetime.”
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Bob, who grew up in a TV-free household, said that he and Michelle have eased screen-time restrictions for their kids during the lockdown.
“We definitely limit time on the iPad and watching TV, but we are giving them a little bit of a break during these weeks. And for us it can be tough having three kids on you all the time, so we are letting them watch Disney, Disney+ for a couple of hours when we need a break.
“Michelle is kind of the piston of the operation. She drives the learning and a lot of the plans and she always comes up with great ideas for the day. We had always planned to homeschool the kids this year so Michelle has all of the workbooks and arts and crafts.”
A typical day begins with bacon and egg sandwiches for breakfast, followed by a couple of hours of homeschooling, time in the backyard pool and then playing in the yard and looking for ladybugs. There are Legos and puzzles to play with and deserted dirt roads for bike rides. The family builds a fire at night and Michelle entertains the kids with ghost stories.
“It’s kind of like a staycation,” Bob says. “We’re enjoying the time with the family and staying positive. It’s kind of a blessing for us because our life has always been ‘go, go, go’ and this time we get to slow it down a little bit. It’s a cute stage for us with the kids with the age they are at.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with Bob and Mike’s planned farewell season on the ATP Tour. The first tournaments cancelled, the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and the Miami Open presented by Itau, were two of the brothers’ favourites.
“It definitely hurt to miss the Indian Wells/Miami stretch. We have played well there and it’s where my friends and family can come watch us play. Being from Southern Cal, Indian Wells was always our hometown tournament.”
Additionally, Bob’s father, Wayne, was bringing 300 kids to Indian Wells from across the country for a series of clinics, a talent show and of course to watch the Bryans in action. “That was going to be a huge experience for our Foundation,” Bob says. “And our band was going to play on the Thursday night and that is always one of our best gigs. It’s our Super Bowl of gigs.
“We also loved Houston and am sorry to miss that as it’s always such a great, relaxed atmosphere at River Oaks and we look forward to getting on stage there as well. Obviously, we also have great memories of slams, so we hate to see those slip, but it’s important right now that everyone stays in their own space and we beat this thing.”
The Bryans’ initial plan was to sign off after the US Open. Although the US hard court season is still scheduled to proceed, nothing in this world is certain at the moment. If the Bryans don’t get to play tournaments over the summer, then Bob says they may re-assess their schedule.
“Our retirement plan is not going as planned for sure,” he says. “We had a lot of hopes and dreams to say goodbye to our favorite tournaments for the last time and really get our fill before we shut it down. We don’t know what the schedule holds for the summer. If we could play a full summer and finish at the Open like we talked about, that might be enough.
“We haven’t made a decision if we are going to play in 2021, but Mike and I will sure to be talking about that in the months to come.”
Last month the Bryan Brothers Foundation made a $150,000 donation to the Inspiring Children Foundation in Las Vegas as part of Jewel’s ‘Live From San Quarantine’ concert.
“It has been a cause we’ve been supporting for a long time. A lot of the kids wear the Team Bryan shirts,” Bob says. “Ryan Wolfington and Trent Alenik do a great job of taking kids from challenging situations, mentoring them and turning them into leaders. Ninety-five per cent of them go on to get a college scholarship, and to many of the top colleges like Stanford, Harvard, Yale. We’ve never seen a programme like it and we’re passionate about supporting it.
“Jewel came on to support and we felt it was our obligation to make sure they were able to continue their mission.”
A winner of 119 team titles and more than 1100 matches with Mike, Bob is hoping that COVID-19 won’t be the reason they are denied a shot at a 120th title and the opportunity to say goodbye to American fans this summer.
“Our bodies feel good but we’re not getting any younger. I know it will get more challenging as we play past 42. But with this downtime, the inflammation should go out of the body and we should be able to get strong and hopefully play some of these tournaments again.”