Bob and Mike Bryan lost in five sets to Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac.
© Ron Angle
By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
BOISE, Idaho – U.S. Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier said Friday the entire team knew every time Bob and Mike Bryan took the court, they could expect a great performance.
The greatest doubles team in history did nothing less Saturday against Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac, bringing their best and rallying from two sets down as they played the longest fifth set in U.S. Davis Cup team doubles history (in terms of games), but came up just short of the win.
In an extremely high-quality match with outstanding serving from both teams, Zimonjic and Bozoljac outlasted the world No. 1s and 13-time Grand Slam champion Bryans 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1), 5-7, 4-6, 15-13 in nearly four and a half hours to give Serbia a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five match Davis Cup Quarterfinal between the U.S. and Serbia at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho.
At four hours, 23 minutes, the match was the second-longest, by one minute, U.S. Davis Cup team doubles match since the tiebreak was introduced in 1989.
On Day 1, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic defeated John Isner and Sam Querrey defeated Viktor Troicki for a 1-1 tie.
With the loss, the Bryans’ Davis Cup record together falls to 20-4, as the two also lost a fifth-set heartbreaker to Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares in the U.S.’s first round win over Brazil. The two were disappointed to not pull out the win but faced opponents Saturday who did not give many openings, including hitting 36 aces.
"We always believed we could win the match," Bob Bryan said. "The best thing of three out of five sets, the team has to play extremely well for a long time to beat us. Even when we were down two sets, we knew we were just a couple points away from getting it back. We fought back hard. I thought they actually elevated their games in the fifth. They knew they had to go for broke, and they did it. Just came up against a serving machine. 36 aces, it's tough to face."
Heading into the match, there was much speculation that Serbian Captain Bogdan Obradovic would substitute either Djokovic or Troicki in the doubles rubber for the hard-serving Bozoljac, the world No. 335 in singles who hardly plays doubles. The U.S. had been expecting Troicki to take the court but it didn’t affect their outcome Saturday.
Bozoljac played at an extremely high level the entire match, far outplaying his ranking with scorching winners, especially on returns, and 130 mph-plus serves to go with clutch serving from the veteran Zimonjic, a three-time doubles Grand Slam champion and former No. 1.
"For us, it's the same game. Served big, tried to fill the middle," Mike Bryan said. "Today, the match, they threw in a huge server. [Bozoljac] showed a lot on the court today. We have a lot of respect for Ilija. We'll have a lot of respect for this guy as long as we live."
The two teams traded breaks in the opening set but while the Bryans broke to win the third and fourth sets, the Americans then went unbroken until late in the fifth.
As the fifth progressed, three times the Bryans were two points from winning the match but never held a match point as servers continued to dominate. The Serbians had two opportunities to break Bob Bryan’s serve as he went for a 5-4 lead in the fifth but could not convert.
There were no break point chances for either team the rest of the set until Mike Bryan took the ball to serve at 13-all. At 15-30, after Zimonjic returned a forehand long and Bozoljac continued a pattern he had been doing all day, rocketing a forehand return winner just in the baseline to set up two break point chances.
On the next serve, Zimonjic returned a backhand wide crosscourt to save one but the Bryans could not save the next as a another great return from Bozoljac hit Mike Bryan’s backhand and went wide to give the Serbians a chance to serve for the marathon match.
But the Americans kept fighting and a good return from Bob Bryan forced Zimonjic into hitting a low forehand into the net and then a double fault gave the Bryans two chances to level the fifth once again.
Zimonjic, however, regrouped to hit back-to-back aces for deuce. A service winner went off Bob Bryan’s forehand then to give the Serbians their first match point. However, a sensational lob from Mike Bryan on the next point landed just in the baseline that Zimonjic netted.
The game went back to deuce but Zimonjic reared back to hit another service winner off Bob Bryan’s forehand and on the second match point hit the 36th ace for the win.
On Sunday, Querrey looks to keep the U.S. alive in the first match against Djokovic and then Isner plays Troicki in the final match but the team’s strategy does not change.
"The mission was always to come out, play well today, then win two singles matches on Sunday no matter where we stood," Courier said. " Nothing changes. We know where we stand, what we have to do. The mission doesn't change: go out there and put Ws on the board."