Hit & Run: Twinning streak

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The Independent Online

Before they divided into separate embryos, Bob and Mike Bryan existed, briefly, as a single zygote. Thirty-one years later, the identical twins have become the greatest doubles pair of their generation. Now gunning for their 55th pro title and eighth grand slam at this week's US Open, the Americans have been described as playing as if they were still a single organism. While most pairs talk strategy between points, Bob and Mike rarely appear to communicate. "The Bryans have an unfair advantage," Daniel Nestor, one of their rivals on the doubles tour, said this week. "They have that little ESP thing going."

Extrasensory perception is a psychic phenomena often associated with quacks and loons. But such is the strength and wealth of anecdotal evidence relating to identical twins, many experts believe it deserves to be looked at with a more scientific eye. Stories abound of twins "feeling" that their sibling is in peril, or is about to go into labour. But can sharing genes really give twins an unfair advantage in sport?

Dr Lynn Cherkas, a research fellow at the Department of Twin Research based at King's College London, believes twins do have one up on their opponents. And she should know – Cherkas used to play club-standard doubles with her own twin sister. "We knew each other so well – our strengths and weaknesses – that it absolutely gave us an advantage," she says. But when it comes to telepathic abilities, which, in one in five identical twins claimed to have in a survey carried out by Cherkas's team, academics remain sceptical. "The problem is to look beyond familiarity to establish if there is anything else going on," she adds.

The Bryans are probably the most successful twins to use their special relationship to achieve sporting greatness – but they are not the first. Tim Gullikson won 10 of his 15 top-level doubles titles with his identical twin, Tom. Frank and Ronald de Boer scored 26 goals (13 each) for Holland, while, in 1998, Mark and Mitch Mimbs became the first identical twins to pitch against each other in a major league baseball game.

But for every set of twin greats there are more pairs of hot-shot siblings who never shared womb space. "Sport genes" are known to run in families – indeed the Bryan parents were tennis champions in their time – but Cherkas says there is no evidence to suggest sharing DNA offers any advantage beyond a lifetime spent learning each others' game inside out, and a genetic disposition to be good at sport. Whether the secret to the Bryan brothers' success is tied up more in genetics and upbringing than the paranormal, sports fans can expect to see more big-hitting look-alikes. The use of IVF and other fertility treatments has boosted the incidence of twins from one in 90 births to as many as one in 60. In the meantime, Daniel Nestor and the rest of the doubles tour can be excused for believing that the all-conquering Bryans have special powers. Simon Usborne

Hate a font? You must be a design buff

A passionate exchange of views in Ikea is an event normally reserved for those trying to look after three children while wrestling with bank holiday queues plus a shelf system and two urban-chic bar stools in tow. But recently, Sweden's greatest export since Abba has been making people angrier than usual. It's down to a tiny detail in the company's catalogue – it prints and distributes 160 million copies – specifically, a change in the font it uses.

Typefaces might not be of interest to the average punter browsing his local homeware store, but to design bigwigs they're life or death. To them, Ikea's switch from Futura (squiggly bits at the ends of letters, looks like an apothecary's sign from the 14th century) to Verdana (simple, stupid, looks like an instruction manual for Marvin the Paranoid Android) is a betrayal of its commitment to good design. "Ikea, stop the Verdana madness!" pleads Oliver Reichenstein in Tokyo on Twitter. "Words can't describe my disgust," spits Ben Cristensen of Melbourne. Romanian design consultant Marius Ursache has started an online petition which so far has gained almost 4,000 signatures (self-publicist or design altruist: you decide).

Ikea claims Verdana is easier to employ in different languages. (It's also a relative newbie: the sans-serif face was designed by Matthew Carter specifically for Microsoft.) It also works well on computer screens. But if your five-piece cookware set ain't broke, don't fix it. Everybody knows only morons write in Verdana. Rob Sharp

A fashion glove affair

It's old news for emo rockers and Dickensian pickpockets, but everyone else, listen up: fingerless gloves are back in style, as seen on Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Lindsay Lohan. And Madonna wears a black leather pair in the video to her latest single "Celebration", in an eerie reminiscence of her punkette character in the 1987 film Who's That Girl?

Knitted wrist-warmers were on the catwalks too at Missoni, Burberry and Chanel among others. The gods of fashion have clearly misheard our prayers: we wanted to be dressed by Karl Lagerfeld, not like him. Harriet Walker

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