100 and out of sight for Bryan bros
NEW YORK -- The venerable doubles expert saw this one coming.
"Oh, they'll win!" he said via email before Sunday's US Open men's doubles final. "Last year's experience with so much on the line about completing a Grand Slam is not as suffocating as winning 100 titles tomorrow.
"They understand now -- the wave of nervous emotion as the finishing line draws closer!"
Take it from one who knows. The correspondent was Mark Woodforde, from his home in California. Before Bob and Mike Bryan became the best men's doubles team in history, Woodforde and his fellow Aussie, Todd Woodbridge, were the standard.
The Woodies won 61 doubles titles together, a record for ATP World Tour teams -- and then the Bryans passed them four years ago in their hometown tournament in Los Angeles.
Now, they have produced an unthinkable, unimpeachable number: 100 titles.
The Bryans defeated the No. 11-seeded Spanish team of Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez 6-3, 6-4 for their fifth US Open title. Their serves were never broken and they produced 25 winners and only five unforced errors.
According to Mike Bryan, they played their best match of the tournament.
"There's no words," he said immediately after the match. "We're obviously ecstatic."
Later, Bob Bryan added, "Relief, ecstasy. I was flashing back to my whole career at the end of the match, juniors, college. I was trying to stay in the moment, but it was impossible."
Beyond the brilliance, there has been a remarkable consistency, too. The 36-year-old California twins were playing in their 20th consecutive US Open. Their first title? In 2001, at Memphis.
The Spaniards had lost five of seven head-to-head matches, but won the last one, earlier this year at Roland Garros. That defeat was one-third of the reason the Bryans came into the US Open without a major title. This victory gave them at least one Grand Slam doubles title for 10 years running, another of their remarkable records.
"That was in the back of our minds," Mike admitted. "We do get nervous. I think it was something like our 27th Grand Slam final. It feels like it was our first. We were jittery. Tough to eat, tough to sleep."
It was their 16th major title, extending their record over the second-place Australian team of John Newcombe and Tony Roche to four.
"It's tough, you know," Granollers said of playing the Bryans. "[They] deserve this tournament. They are the best."
Play-by-play? Not necessary. The Bryans rode Bob Bryan's superior serve and repeatedly picked on Lopez's vulnerable backhand and serve. Bob served it out and Mike hit the winning volley, splitting the Spanish team, that gave them the century mark.
After winning the tournament with impeccable form, though, they botched their standard chest bump celebration. Where was the legendary twin telepathy?
Mike made a run at his brother and they awkwardly touched chests, then Bob, still earth-bound, held Mike aloft for a few seconds and the applause washed over them on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
It was, Mike said, a miscommunicated chest bump. "I went for it," he said. "Bob didn't lift off. I don't think we have ever done this kind of dirty dancing swan dive. That was a first."
Said Bob, "Sometimes it gets ugly. You felt as light as a feather."
Afterward, Woodforde discussed their epic feat by phone.
"Absolutely mind-blowing," he said. "Every team sitting in the No. 1 position -- McEnroe-Fleming, Hewitt-McMillan, me and Todd -- you wonder if you've set the bar high enough. When we finished, we said, 'That's pretty good.'
"I strongly doubt that in the history of our sport we'll see another 100-title team. There's not enough words to describe 100 victories for these guys."
Still, Woodforde said he would try. He planned to send a text with the message: "Too good. Absolutely, too good."
The brothers will not rest on their considerable laurels.
The Bryans are off to Chicago for next week's Davis Cup World Group Playoff against Slovakia. They plan to play at least until 2016 and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"We're going to keep pushing," Mike said. "We love this great game. We're not stopping anytime soon."