By Jason Brown, USTA.com
MOSCOW -- Bob and Mike Bryan gave their country exactly what it needed on Saturday, earning a valuable point in doubles that keeps the United States’ Davis Cup dreams alive and within a point of tying Russia in the best-of-five semifinal series.
After heavy speculation of a late lineup-change to his doubles pairing after winning both points the day before in singles play, Russian team captain Shamil Tarpischev stuck with Mikhail Youzhny and Dmitry Tursunov, who were beaten soundly in straight sets by the California twins, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, a match that lasted just an hour and 29 minutes.
"We just love to win our point," said left-hander Bob Bryan. "Whether we’re at one-all or down 0-2 or up 2-0, it just feels good to win for our country and our teammates."
Since making their debut against the Slovak Republic in 2003, the Bryans have cemented their standing on Captain Patrick McEnroe's close-knit four-man roster, compiling an impressive nine wins in ten matches, their sole loss coming at the hands of Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic of Croatia in Carson, California.
The U.S. have been in a 0-2 hole thirty-three times in Davis Cup history, and have now won the doubles point in 16 of those instances.
In series’ in which they forced a fourth match, the U.S. have won four of those matches, and are 1-3 in deciding fifth rubbers, the sole victory coming in 1934 at Wimbledon over Australia in the Inter-Zonal Final which advanced the U.S. to the Challenge Round.
The winning player on Friday against American No. 2 James Blake, Youzhny couldn’t quite do enough to earn Russia a second point in as many matches.
He and his partner Tursunov were liabilities at the net all afternoon, no match for the soft hands and thunderous baseline blasts from the Bryan twins.
The top-ranked double team in the world had their way over Russia, taking charge as the more polished, cohesive unit, over two players better-suited for singles.
Up 4-3 in the first set, an ugly volley from Tursunov gave the U.S. their first break point of the match. The Russians defended the break, but following a poor volley from Youzhny and another blown attempt at the net from Tursunov, Youzhny capped the messy game by netting an easy overhead volley.
Tied at three games apiece in the second set, Mike Bryan slugged a sizzling forehand down the line which was unreturned by his Russian counterpart for the second key break.
Serving for the set at 5-4, the American left-hander laced an ace out wide in the ad court. A break of serve in the opening game of the third set sealed the win for the twins, who would later add an insurance break.
Breaking out their signature victory celebration, Bob and Mike chose a 360 degree chest bump as McEnroe and the U.S. sideline celebrated.
Youzhny is scheduled to meet American No. 1 Andy Roddick in Sunday’s first reverse singles match beginning at 1 pm local time (5 am eastern). The U.S. must win that match to force a deciding fifth rubber.
“I can see on their faces that James and Andy are very eager and very positive,” said right-hander Mike Byran. “It stung yesterday for a little while, but they bounced back quick and are in good spirits for tomorrow.”
Nikolay Davydenko, ranked fifth, has yet to see action during the semifinal, but could very well be Youzhny’s substitute against Roddick.
After falling to Marat Safin in the first day of competition, Roddick said on Friday that he was preparing to play Davydenko after seeing him practicing with the team on consecutive days.
“Youzhny played a great match yesterday, but I wouldn’t be surprised either way,” said McEnroe.
“We don’t have any expectation of one or the other. We didn’t know today who was going to play in the doubles until an hour before. Andy is very familiar with both players. Davydenko is an excellent player and Youzhny has played well. It’s really a matter of Andy coming out and playing his game, trying to stay composed and relaxed, but intense. And I think that if he does that against either one of them, that he’s got a chance.”
Arriving in Moscow with a shoulder injury, Davydenko has excellent career results on clay this year, including reaching the final of Estoril, the quarterfinals of Hamburg, winning the Roland Garros tune-up at Poertschach, and advancing to the quarterfinals of the French Open.
If Roddick can earn the necessary point to make the fifth match relevant, James Blake is scheduled to meet Marat Safin. Blake is a career 1-2 against Safin, including a recent hard court loss in consecutive tie-breakers at the US Open Series’ Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC.
In the second World Group semifinal, Argentina defeated Australia, three points to zero, as the doubles team of David Nalbandian and Agustin Calleri defeated Wayne Arthurs and Paul Hanley in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5, to clinch the tie. Argentina will host either the United States or Russia in the 2006 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Final, Decemeber 1-3.