Bob and Mike Bryan have reached Australian Open men's doubles finals nine of the last 10 years.
Bob and Mike Bryan have reached Australian Open men's doubles finals nine of the last 10 years.
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Bob and Mike Bryan made their earliest exit from the Australian Open in 11 years, losing to American Eric Butorac and South African Raven Klaasen in the third round of the men's doubles 7-6 (9), 6-4 on Monday.

The Bryans won the title here last year and are the most successful doubles team in the Open era with 15 Grand Slam titles, including six at the Australian Open.

''We like coming down here and starting the year hot and I don't think we played terribly,'' Mike Bryan said. ''It's just the margins are really small.''

The twins have been practically invincible at Melbourne Park, reaching the finals nine of the last 10 years. The last time they lost before the quarterfinals was 2003.

But they said the loss illustrates the depth of the doubles game and how much tougher the top teams have become thanks to better conditioning, equipment, strategies and coaching.

''I feel like the game's being played at a pretty high level by a lot of good teams,'' Bob Bryan said. ''The old days of just enjoying the pro tennis lifestyle without fully committing yourself is completely in the past.''

His comments stand in stark contrast to the opinions voiced by John McEnroe last month in an interview with The Times of London, in which he questioned why doubles is still being played at the majors and said today's doubles players are ''the slow guys who aren't quick enough to play singles.''

''Most of you guys know I love doubles. But I look at it now and say, what is this? I don't even recognize what this is,'' McEnroe was quoted as saying.

''Obviously, we didn't agree with what he said,'' Bob Bryan said. His brother added: ''He pretty much went on a rant.''

The Bryans said they spoke with McEnroe for about 45 minutes about the interview and characterized it as a ''good conversation,'' though they don't think they changed his mind.

''The game is played a lot different than when he was on the tour,'' Bob Bryan said. ''It's probably harder for him to appreciate what's going on.''

The Bryans were the second marquee team taken out by Butorac and Klaasen, who have only been partners for four months. They defeated crowd favorites Lleyton Hewitt and Pat Rafter, who came out of retirement at the age of 41 to play doubles at the Australian Open, in the first round.

Butorac joked that he and Klaasen almost never became a team after a potential set-up - sort of like a blind date - went badly.

''Someone actually suggested, `I think Raaven would be a good partner for you,'' Butorac said. ''I went to go watch his match, thinking this could be my guy, and he was awful. And I was like forget that.''

Now they're into the quarters of a Grand Slam.

''We played so many doubles matches on back courts in front of small crowds,'' Butorac said. ''We finally get to be on a big arena, let's embrace it.''

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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