Bryan, Harrison win
doubles epic in semis vs. Croatia
Pat Mitsch | September 15, 2018
There are retirement parties. Call this a ‘coming-out-of-retirement’ party.
Mike Bryan officially ended his two-year Davis Cup retirement in dramatic and resounding fashion on Saturday in Croatia, teaming up with Ryan Harrison for the first time to win an epic Davis Cup doubles match, 7-5, 7-6 (6), 1-6, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), over Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig to extend this semifinal tie into Sunday in Zadar.
“These are the matches that you look back on in your career and you really remember,” Bryan said. “Playing for your country, winning an away tie. This is really why you play the game. And I think I missed that for a couple years away from Davis Cup."
The match lasted 4 hours, 41 minutes on the Sporski Centar Visnjik’s red-clay surface, officially the longest U.S. Davis Cup doubles match since the competition began using tiebreaks in 1989. ADVERTISEMENT Bryan is now 27-5 in Davis Cup doubles (24-5 with Bob, 2-0 with Mardy Fish), while Harrison is 3-0 this year, with three different partners, including Steve Johnson (Serbia) and Jack Sock (Belgium).
“Mike and Bob have meant a tremendous amount to the Davis Cup team,” said U.S. Captain Jim Courier. “Their record is amazing. The way it went down was I had lunch with Bob after he had surgery in New York City, and I asked for his blessing to invite Mike back and see if Mike would be interested in playing because obviously Bob was out for a while, hopefully he’ll be back next year.
"It’s like asking someone’s hand in marriage sometimes, you need to talk to the father first. And they’re so close, I felt like without consulting Bob it wouldn’t have been appropriate, since they decided to stop on their own. Obviously, they’re incredibly valuable, together or separately. We’ve been lucky to have Mike back. He and Ryan really combined well today in a pretty tricky environment.”
The stats were as close as the score line. Total points won: 193 for the U.S., 192 for Croatia. Total winners: 68 for the U.S., 65 for Croatia. Break points won: 4-9 for the U.S., 5-13 for Croatia.
The only category that was lopsided was fan support, as the home crowd inside the 8,000-seat stadium grew louder as Pavic and Dodig mounted their comeback.
“We’ve had some Davis Cup ties this year that I’ve been a part of, but that was definitely the rowdiest and the most intense,” said Harrison. “I think that just coming through that environment is very exciting. One of the most memorable moments for me, and I’m really grateful I had the opportunity.”
Bryan also gets redemption, of sorts, as his and brother Bob’s loss to Dodig and Marin Cilic in the 2016 Quarterfinals vs. Croatia was the match that sparked the Croatians’ improbable comeback to win that tie and prompted the Bryans to retire from Davis Cup.
“I wasn’t really thinking about that. I’m just looking to put one on the board for the U.S. I wasn’t thinking of Carson or Portland or these losses to Croatia,” Bryan said. “So just was trying to put our head down, play the best match that we could, and teaming up with Harry, I thought our energy was strong. You just play as hard as you can, and hopefully you’re shaking hands and you have a victory. You look back on it, and yeah, maybe it is a little satisfying that I lost my last match in Portland. I wanted to come over here and do good for Jim and the team.”
While the U.S. still has come back from an 0-2 Davis Cup deficit only once in 41 tries, the odds of a comeback from 1-2 down are slightly better. That’s happened five times in U.S. Davis Cup history, most recently in the year 2000, when it happened twice.
The Americans’ fate will be decided with singles on Sunday, as Steve Johnson is set to take on Cilic in the day’s first match, with Frances Tiafoe pitted against Borna Coric in what would be the fifth and decisive rubber. Each team captain may change the players nominated for singles up to one hour before the match.
“Certainly there’s been some momentum built today, and we’ll see if we can use that momentum and kind of use it as a bit of a boomerang for us after the 0-2 start, and kind of capture that momentum and just sling-shot our way into the finish-line here,” said Courier.
The winner of this tie will face France in the final, as France defeated Spain, 3-0, today, in the other semifinal. The U.S. would host France in the United States, Nov. 23-25.
Play on Sunday begins at 11 a.m. local time, 5 a.m. ET. Each match will air live on Tennis Channel.