Bob Bryan serves in his Davis Cup semifinal doubles match with his brother Mike against Spain.
© Ron Angle
Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez play defense against the Bryan brothers.
© Ron Angle
By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
GIJON, Spain – Bob and Mike Bryan took the court for their 22nd Davis Cup match together Saturday, knowing they needed to win to stave off elimination for the U.S. and knowing they were facing one of their toughest opponents.
But as they have done time and again, the world No. 1 Bryans battled and came up big for the U.S. Davis Cup Team, defeating Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 in a tight match lasting three hours, 38 minutes to keep the U.S. alive in the semifinals against Spain.
On the first day of play Friday, David Ferrer defeated Sam Querrey in four sets and Nicolas Almagro defeated John Isner in a five-set battle to give Spain a 2-0 lead. The score is now 2-1 with the Bryans’ victory in the best-of-five series.
With the win, the 12-time Grand Slam champion Bryans improve to 20-2 together in Davis Cup and remain unbeaten on the road at 12-0 and also unbeaten on clay.
Saturday’s match, featuring four of the world’s best doubles players, did not disappoint for thrilling and dramatic points and remained tight throughout. It featured great volley exchanges, great net defense in particular from the Bryans, Granollers forehand winners down the line, baseline rallies often with Bob Bryan and Marc Lopez and ultimately, a few more key points won for the Americans, who said they thought Granollers and Lopez were the best Spanish Davis Cup doubles team they had faced.
Granollers battled a left leg injury that required an injury timeout after the second set. The pain worsened and he thought he might not be able to continue in the third, but he stuck it out and was able to still rip his forehand, and Mike Bryan gave everyone a scare when his foot stuck and he rolled onto the court on the Americans’ first match point in the fourth.
He was a little slow getting up and said it didn’t feel good but was able to continue. Then after that dive brought the game to deuce, the Bryans gained their second match point chance when Granollers hit a forehand volley long, and then closed it out for the U.S. when Lopez double faulted.
"It was a battle. That’s what it definitely was," Bob Bryan said. "We feel good. We came here to get a win and we kept the team alive. It wasn’t pretty all the time but a win is a win and we’re happy with that."
The first set was over fairly quickly with two breaks for the Bryans to give them the early lead but the Spanish team fought back to break early in the second set, putting more pressure on the Bryans’ service games.
The Americans made a push to break back in the next game with a lengthy battle featuring ten deuces and nine break point chances for the Bryans as they mixed up groundstrokes with effective lobs into the bright sun but after the tenth deuce, Granollers smacked another forehand winner, this time down the middle for the Spanish advantage and Spain held for 3-0 with another Granollers winner from his forehand side.
The battle continued in the next game on Bob Bryan’s serve, as the Americans fought off three break point chances in a game with six deuces to get on the board for the first time in the set. But they were unable to break either Spaniard’s serve the rest of the set.
Granollers and Lopez then left the court after the second for the injury timeout. It was Lopez who retired with a calf injury in the pair’s US Open semifinal match last week but Saturday it was Granollers who required the treatment with a more heavily taped left calf than Lopez.
He was not able to get much jump from his legs on his serves and appeared to have a little difficulty moving his feet at the baseline at times. He said the pain became worse in the third set and he thought he might not be able to continue but did not again take a timeout for treatment and pushed through, although he said his effort was not enough to overcome the hindrance the leg caused.
The Bryans then grabbed the early lead in the third, breaking Granollers on their fourth break point chance of the game when he pushed a volley long and then Lopez missed a forehand wide crosscourt for 3-1. But three games later it was back on serve with the Spaniards able to break Mike Bryan thanks to a crosscourt passing shot from Lopez, who then closed it out on the next point with a winner down the center of the court.
It was the Americans who struck back first, battling from 30-15 on Lopez’s serve to set up a break point thanks to a great shot from Bob Bryan off Granollers’ backhand at the net. Mike Bryan then closed out the break and the third set with a forehand cross winner for 7-5 as the pumped up Americans grabbed the momentum heading into the fourth.
"It wasn’t easy to play a guy who was potentially injured," Mike Bryan said of Granollers. "I thought we played safe for a good set and a half so it was great to break there (to end the third). I thought we played a great game."
Nothing was easy for other team as the Bryans converted just six of 22 break point chances and the Spaniards converted just four of 13. The Spaniards also continued to go for the big shots, with 80 winners but 74 unforced errors to 35 and just 26, for the Bryans, who were excellent on defense.
The battle continued through the fourth, with Spain striking first with a break to go up 2-1 on Mike Bryan’s serve when Lopez hit a winner down the line for 2-1. But the Americans kept pressing and responded three games later on Granollers’ serve, earning two break points when Granollers hit a sliding forehand into the net and closed it out two points later when he netted another forehand for 3-all.
Granollers and Lopez kept the pressure on, earning a break point on Bob Bryan’s serve in the ninth game, which the Bryans saved when Granollers pushed a forehand long and then the Americans had the advantage when he the netted another forehand. They held for 5-4 then when a hard volley from Mike Bryan forced a shot from the Spaniards high and into the crowd.
One game away from staving off elimination for the U.S., the Bryans were two points from winning the match at 30-all on Granollers’ serve but the Spaniards were able to hang on when Granollers hit back-to-back winners for 5-all.
The Bryans were not held off for long. With Lopez serving two games later, the Bryans were again two points from winning at 30-all and then at deuce when Lopez netted a forehand. They then took the advantage with a volley drop winner from Mike Bryan for their first match point chance. He hit the court when his foot stuck to bring the game then back to deuce. But when Granollers hit a forehand long, it gave the Bryans another chance to close out the match and this time they converted on the double fault from Lopez.
On Sunday, Isner faces Ferrer in the third singles match and then Querrey plays Almagro as the U.S. Davis Cup Team looks to come back from a 0-2 deficit for just the second time in its history and first time since 1934. It is a difficult task but as U.S. Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier said, they have two great players ready to go Sunday, and quoting the former New York Yankees’ Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, it isn’t over yet.
"We’re down 2-1 and we prefer to be alive. It could be 3-0, these guys did a great job today," Courier said of the Bryans. "I am sure Spain is ready to put us away but we have two guys ready to fire tomorrow. We’ll take our chances and see what happens. Until it is over, I think Yogi Berra said it best. ‘It ain’t over.’"