Bryans switch to survive scare at US Open
NEW YORK -- Yes, even Bob and Mike Bryan hit the panic button every now and then.
Facing an opponent who knows them as well as anyone, the identical twins switched sides for their serve returns in the second set of their third-round U.S. Open match Sunday. That switch, described as "desperate" by both brothers, triggered a comeback that kept alive their hopes of becoming the first men's doubles team to capture the calendar Grand Slam in 62 years.
"It's a pretty big deal, because you never practice the other way," Mike Bryan said after the 6-7 (1), 7-5, 6-2 victory over Vasek Pospisil and veteran doubles player Daniel Nestor. "But when you're desperate, you kind have nothing to lose, just because we didn't have much hope the other way."
With Mike, the right-hander, returning from the deuce side and Bob, the lefty, in the ad court, the Bryans were down a break at 4-3 in the second set before they finally got through to Nestor's serve. It was the first of four straight times the 40-year-old, eight-time major titlist lost serve.
"Maybe, a little bit," Nestor said when asked if the switch flustered him. "Probably could've mixed it up a little more. I got too repetitive with my first serves and they weren't going in."
The third set felt much more routine for the Bryans, as did the finish, which they celebrated with their trademark chest bump: The "Bryan Bump." The Bryans won their 27th straight Grand Slam match, dating to the start of last year's U.S. Open. They need three more victories to become only the second men's doubles team to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in the same year. The Australian duo of Ken McGregor and Frank Sedgman did it in 1951.
"To be honest, it's really on our minds," Bob Bryan said.
Indeed, they are in virtually uncharted territory, which pretty much mirrored their decision to flip flop in the second set so both players would be playing with their backhands down the middle. It's a move that, for a veteran doubles team, would be akin to an NFL offense scrapping the passing game and running the option after halftime. Yes, it can be done, but it certainly isn't something they practice. Despite that, the brothers did remember doing it at the 2010 Australian Open final against Nestor. They won in three sets.
"It ended up working out, but, yeah, it was just a desperate call," Bob Bryan said. "I mean, we were feeling a little bit hopeless on the return games, and throwing in a switch like that sometimes is a psychological advantage."
Even after the change, they fell down a break when Nestor and Pospisil took advantage of a couple fortuitous ticks off the net cord to win two straight points and go ahead 4-3. But the Bryans answered back, with Bob able to tee off on a couple of Nestor's second serves from his new spot on the ad side.
"I wasn't second guessing the play, because if we didn't change it, with the way things were going, we would have been in another breaker and it's a coin flip," Bob Bryan said.
According to the ATP website, this was Nestor's 51st meeting against the Bryans, with a variety of partners, dating to 1997. He is 24-27 against what is widely regarded as the most successful doubles team of all time. The Bryans have won 15 Grand Slam titles and will close out this season ranked No. 1 for a record ninth time.
Often, teams are beaten by the Bryans before they walk onto the court.
"They're intimidating, big hitters, they serve well and, with a record like that, for sure, it's like playing to singles players in singles," Nestor said. "There's a lot of respect and intimidation factor. But I've played them a lot. We didn't succumb to that. For whatever reason, my serve broke down and they obviously raised their level. They're not going to go away without fighting."
Last year in the third round, the Bryans were two points from being eliminated, when Bob stuck his racket between his legs to deflect a shot rocketed toward him by his opponent, Santiago Gonzalez. The Bryans won the point and went on to win the match and the tournament.
"There were 20 different options," Mike Bryan said that day. "He picked the 21st."
A year later, they found themselves in dire straits again.
"That's the reason we changed it up," Bob Bryan said. "Because it wasn't feeling good."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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