The Bryans celebrate their straight-sets win.
© Ron Angle
By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
ROQUEBRUNE-CAP-MARTIN, France – Since they made their U.S. Davis Cup Team debuts in 2003, Bob and Mike Bryan have been called upon time and again to produce in the pivotal doubles rubber, whether it is to clinch the tie, keep the U.S. alive or give their country the lead.
And time and time again, they have produced as the winningest U.S. Davis Cup doubles team in history. Saturday was no exception.
With a chance to give the U.S. the lead over France in their Davis Cup Quarterfinal tie at the Monte Carlo Country Club, the Bryans played steady, never faced a break point and made few mistakes to defeat Michael Llodra and Julien Benneteau 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (4) to put the U.S. ahead 2-1 heading into the final day of play Sunday.
The U.S. is now one win away from victory in the best-of-five tie with John Isner scheduled to play Jo-Wilfried Tsonga first Sunday with a chance to clinch the tie. Ryan Harrison is scheduled to play Gilles Simon in the second reverse singles match.
The win gives the Bryans a 19-2 Davis Cup record when they play together, with Mike also having won the doubles rubber in the U.S.’s first round win over Switzerland with Mardy Fish, a tie Bob missed due to the birth of his daughter. They also remained undefeated in ties played on the road.
"I thought we came in today and played a really solid match, especially on our serves," Mike Bryan said. "Not being down break point against a tough team on dirt is a great stat for us. It wasn’t flashy, we just played workmanlike doubles today.
"Then we threw in a lot of plays, didn't give them the same look," he added. "We usually don't do a lot of full switches, but we were doing that like from the first point. I don't think we had any double faults. We were pretty happy."
The score was 1-1 after the first day of play Friday with Isner securing the first point for the U.S. with a dominating 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 win over Simon. Tsonga fought off Harrison 7-5, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 in the opening match.
The Bryans took the lead from the start Saturday, breaking Llodra, the world No. 5 doubles player, to open the match when the Frenchman double faulted. Both the Bryans’ serves were strong from the beginning, especially Mike’s, who lost just one point on his serve in the first set.
"We got right out of the gate with a break. We're good frontrunners," Mike Bryan said. "We play with more energy when we are ahead."
For the match, the Bryans had just six unforced errors, won 81 percent of their first serves and 100 percent of their second serves.
The second set started much the same way as the first, with a break and a lead for the Americans that they secured when Benneteau pushed a volley way past the baseline.
Llodra and Benneteau increased their levels of play in the third set and neither team held a break point as the set progressed to the tiebreak.
The Frenchmen took an early 2-1 lead but the Bryans grabbed the edge two points later when Mike hit a backhand volley cross winner for 3-2 and pushed it to 5-2 with forehand winner, again by Mike. Llodra and Benneteau kept fighting though, pulling to within 5-4 with a volley winner from Benneteau.
Then Bob Bryan took the ball with a chance to serve out the match – and he did. The Bryans went up 6-4 when Llodra missed a shot just wide, after a great out-wide get from Bob Bryan on Llodra’s return. They secured the match win and the second point for the U.S. when Benneteau returned Bob Bryan’s next serve long of the baseline.
Bob Bryan credited U.S. Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier with preparing them well and they then executed to perfection.
"Jim had a great game plan," he said. "He kept us calm. He hasn't played a lot of doubles in his career, but he sees it very well and he was able to help us a lot."
With the U.S. now one win away from advancing to the semifinals, Courier knows his team will be prepared Sunday and that as extremely well and powerful as Isner played against Simon Friday, he will need to do it again to defeat Tsonga, the world No. 6. And should they need the fifth singles match, the 19-year-old Harrison is more than capable of stepping up.
"Well, the way John played yesterday will give him confidence. It gives us, the team, confidence for sure. He's going to have to come out and play at that level to have a chance to beat Jo," Courier said. "We're ready to play both matches tomorrow. We anticipate a serious fight on our hands from the French team. We're looking forward to that. That's what we're here for. We're here to leave it all on the court and see who the better team is."