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U.S. Open Notebook: Twin bros. bounced by Agassi, Rafter on first day

Twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan each played against former U.S. Open champions at Arthur Ashe Stadium, or the “big house,” as Bob Bryan called it Monday.

That’s the good news for the Bryan brothers.

The bad news is that each lost in straight sets, Bob falling to sixth-ranked Patrick Rafter of Australia, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 7-5, in the day session and Mike losing to their idol, second-seeded Andre Agassi, 6-4, 6-1, 6-0, in the night session.

It was the first time two brothers played in the men’s singles draw together since Douglaston’s McEnroes, John and Patrick, did it in 1992.

“It’s really exciting for both of us to get out there and get some exposure on TV, play in this big house,” Bob Bryan said. “We just looked at it as a great opportunity, not a scary draw.”

For Bob Bryan — younger by two minutes — it was his fourth Open appearance, all coming as a wild card entry. And while he was an early exit, he did provide the day’s, and possibly the tournament’s, top highlight as he staved off Rafter with three straight backhand returns from his knees, to win the point.

“I think it’s lucky,” Bryan said. “I was thinking Sportscenter all the way after I hit that. Guys are telling me in the locker room that that’s maybe one of the top 10 points in U.S. Open history. It’s going to be fun to watch over the next couple of weeks.”

It was sure fun for Mike, who said he watched Bob’s entire match.

“That was sweet,” he said. “That was definitely the point of the tournament.”

It was Mike’s turn to perform on stadium court, as he was set to take on his idol Agassi under the lights. At their parent’s home in Camarillo, Calif. the 23-year-old Bryan brothers’ bedroom was adorned with a bevy of Agassi posters and their father Wayne joked during his match that they got Agassi’s autograph about 200 times.

“It wasn’t that many,” Mike said after the match. “We just got him to sign a couple of posters.”

After battling Agassi closely in the first set, which was won by Agassi, 6-4, Agassi took the match over in the second set and cruised to win the final two sets, 6-1, 6-0.

“He just doesn’t let up,” Bryan said of Agassi, who ironically shares the same birthday (Apr. 29) as his idol. “Once he gets you on that little string of the yo-yo, you can’t stop him.”

While Agassi said he was honored to be thought of so highly by someone else on the tour, he was also cautious.

“There’s no greater compliment for a peer to look up to you,” Agassi said. “That said it would have been that much greater of a moment for him to have beaten me.”

Conspiracy Theory?

Not only did the Bryan brothers, who both attended Stanford, have tough first round matches, but so did fellow Cardinal Laura Granville, a former two-time NCAA singles champion, and Marissa Irvin.

Granville lost to women’s top seed Martina Hingis, 6-2, 6-0 in the opening match of the tournament on Arthur Ashe Stadium, while Irvin fell to sixth-seeded Justine Henin, 6-3, 6-3, in the day’s second match at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Some questioned out loud — jokingly of course — if someone from Stanford rival University of California-Berkley had something to do with the draw.

“It’s just luck of the draw, Stanford players didn’t get very lucky this year,” Granville said. “Hopefully next year we’ll get a better draw.”

Bob Bryan was a little less diplomatic.

“Stanford got screwed this year,” he joked.

Another Williams controversy

Instead of talking about their first-round wins Monday, the Serena Williams and Martina Hingis press conferences focused on the cover story in the most recent Time magazine, where Hingis and former women’s legend Martina Navratilova said the Williams sisters receive preferential treatment because they are black.

“Being black only helps them,” said Hingis in the article. “Many times they get sponsors because they are black. And they have had a lot of advantages because they can always say, ‘It’s racism.’ They can always come back and say, ‘Because we are this color, things happen.’”

While she said she apologized if she offended anyone by her comments several months ago, the women’s top-seeded player didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

“I think I was right at the time,” she said. “Why is it such a big deal?”

Serena Williams said she doesn’t think race has anything to do with her endorsements.

“As for being black and getting more endorsements, I wouldn’t know anything about that,” she said. “All I know is I get endorsements because I work hard. I go out there and have a good attitude and I smile.”

Quote of the Week or the Open meets TRL

The winner is….Bob Bryan, who had an extremely eventful opening day of the Open. After admitting he and his brother Mike are pretty good musicians — Bob plays the keyboard while Mike plays the drums — Bryan said up-and-coming star Andy Roddick has been singing a bit with their band, belting out the Vanilla Ice hit, “Ice, Ice, Baby” in Washington, D.C. last weekend.

“He’s got a future in both [tennis and music],” Bryan said of Roddick. “The guy is a movie star. [Pop star] Jessica Simpson gave him her number. He’s all pumped. He’s going to call her and maybe go to the [MTV] music awards with her.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedgr@aol.com or call 229-0300.

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