RELATED: All-Time Davis Cup Champions
By Matthew Cronin, special to USTA.com
Portland, Ore. -- Everyone dreams of reaching the pinnacle of the career that they have imagined since the were kids, but few achieve that goal.
That cannot be said of the Mike and Bob Bryan anymore, as they realized their onetime fantasy of clinching a Davis Cup title for the United States with a resounding 7-6, (4), 6-4, 6-2 victory over Russia's Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Andreev to give the United States their first Davis Cup trophy in 12th year and a record 32nd overall.
The US swept defending champion Russia 3-0 in Portland with significant contributions from the whole squad: an in-your-face straight set win from top American Andy Roddick over Dmitry Tursunov, a spectacular four set, career defining win from James Blake over Mikhail Youzhny; and then a sometimes tense but well constructed victory by the Bryans.
The top-ranked twins were never more nervous on court, especially the lefty Bob, who threw up after the match and was late to the beer-soaked, post match press conference because he was cleaning himself up.
But like everyone else on the podium - McEnroe, Roddick, Blake, Mike Bryan, Mardy Fish, Robby Ginepri, John Isner and Donald Young - Bob spoke of team, family and mutual goals.
That's why the team broke a 12-year US Cup drought and is looking forward to bright future.
“I just puked my guts out in the shower about 10 minutes ago,” Bob said with a laugh. “I've been nauseous for three days. I'm not going to try to hide that my stomach was doing back flips. I had a circus of monkeys in my stomach just playing tambourine in there. It was a lot of emotion, especially running out for those intros with the crowd going nuts, fireworks, the whole deal. It was tough to stand on two feet without your knees knocking. It's sometimes hard to just play the ball. You know all that's riding on the match. You got guys that you want to win for. But like Andy said, it doesn't matter how we get the three points, it's just putting all the individual goals aside and getting it done as a team. That's what we've done for the last five years. It's amazing having won this Davis Cup and now having pretty much done it all. We're all feeling great right now. We're going to take it out hard.”
It's been a very long road for US captain Patrick McEnroe, who picked up the pieces left after his brother John resigned in 2000 and had to fashion a cohesive unit. He tried mixing veterans with rookies for a while, but didn't get the desired results. He tried using back up singles players as doubles players and a variety of men at the No. 2 spot.
Roddick became his go to guy early on, but even the top American admits it took a few years to learn how to negotiate difficult ties away against elite players. Fish was a critical part of the team, contesting the 2004 final against Spain. Ginepri put up a couple of key wins. Due to illness, injury and erratic play, Blake went on and off the team and didn't become the permanent No. 2 until the end of 2005.
“Mardy is a part of the team. Robby is a part of the team. This team is not just this year, “Roddick said. “It's not just this year we won. It's a process. This is just kind of the final goal…I can't imagine playing with people you didn't get along with, just because we've always had this relationship and it just seems normal for us. It seems like the way that it is, the way that it should be.”
It was McEnroe's selection of the Bryans as his doubles team late in 2003 that was the shot of glue that the team needed. The likeable twins are considered to be great teammates and have been so dependable in winning the third point that the singles players have never had to worry about being yanked into doubles duty.
While it took the team four years to win the Cup after McEnroe called them into duty, the squad has been considered a contender every year as a result of their brilliance. Their victory on Saturday was their 13th in 14 attempts.
Lefty Bob is nearly unbreakable. Righty Mike is one of the tour's most feared returner. They both volley beautifully, play smart, know what type of shots to play and when. While elite singles players Davydenko and Andreev might be able to belt groundstrokes all day long, they can't match the Bryans combination of fire off the ground and ice in their veins on key doubles points.
“They're much better doubles players,” Andreev said.
There's no question about that but plenty of favored teams have gone down in the past. But not the Bryans, despite a week of anticipation that Mike described as “terrible.”
“It was key,” McEnroe said. “ Aside from what they bring on the court, which has been phenomenal, the way they prepare and play, just their emotions, their team spirit and everything they bring. Everybody knows when they come out on Saturday they're absolutely a hundred percent prepared for whatever's going to be in front of them.
That makes us all feel good, and I think it gives the whole team a sense of sort of calm we're going to be ready to go on Saturday. It's not a guarantee we're going to win, but it's a guarantee that we've got our absolute best team out there. They've delivered every match.”
The team celebrated heartily after the victory and stayed for a long time on court, soaking in the fans adulation. After they came off, they must have hived fived a hundred officials, USTA committee members, former players, coaches and fans who they shared their long journey with.
Hall of Famer and former Fed Cup champ Billie Jean King was on hand soaking in the festivities and reveled in the celebratory atmosphere. She was as proud of the Davis Cup team as she was her multiple Fed Cup groups that were victorious.
King said she told McEnroe when he took the job that he had a great opportunity to help mold a Cup winning group.
“They were the right guys and Patrick was perfect because he's patient and persistent,” King said. “There were no indioviduals coming in who would try make into their team quickly. These guys are friends who have always loved Davis Cup. It real, it's not fake and they've waited a long time for this moment. It's so great to see their dreams come to fruition. It was truly a team effort from start to finish. That's why its so special because they've stuck together when things weren't great, and then when they were great. Patrick has been a leader from the start. It was so amazing to see his wife [Tony Award nominee Melissa Enrico] sing the national anthem and to see his baby daughter, Victoria here. It was a script written in heaven.”