The Bryans brothers have been as reliable as taxes when it comes to the Davis Cup, but that was until this year. After two ties Bob and Mike are 0-2 losing to both in five setters, dropping their record to 20-4 in the event.
Two months after a shocking loss to Brazil, today at home in Boise, Idaho, the world No. 1s were stunned again this time by the makeshift Serbian partnership of Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac.
With USA up 2-1 and the specter of Novak Djokovic almost assuredly beating Sam Querrey first up Sunday, the Bryans desperately needed to win to have any chance of the U.S. winning. But behind some excellent serving the Serbs took the first two sets in two breakers.
The Serbs then began to slowly fall back to earth and the pressure started to show. Bozoljac, who had been serving so consistently was broken at love in third.
Then in the fourth Zimonjic faltered. And to a fifth set pressure cooker we went.
Knowing the tie hinged on the outcome of the doubles – was a struggling Viktor Troicki really going to beat John Isner is a fifth decider? – both teams squandered break chances.
Then in an instant at 13-13, in the longest final set is U.S. Davis Cup history, Bob Bryan slipped up and Serbia broke. Zimonjic, a former Slam champion doubles No. 1, doubled, duffed a volley and suddenly it was 15-40. But the 36-year-old kept his poise and served his way to victory, culminating by hitting his teams 36th ace of the match to give Serbia a 7-6(5), 7-6(1), 5-7, 4-6, 15-13, win and a 2-1 lead.
“I was amazed with some shots, some points that we created, all four players, some reflexes. It was just amazing,” said Zimonjic.
“You just have to stay focused, try to enjoy as much as you can. Ilija was saying to me, ‘Keep smiling’. A couple of times I look in the crowd trying to feed off the crowd, the energy. We had great support here from Serbian fans, even though it was incredible atmosphere throughout the match. It was very fair crowd. I hope they enjoyed it as much as we did. And we certainly did.”
Serbian captain Bogdan Obradovic had the popular option of playing Djokovic in the doubles but the gamble of going with Bozoljac paid off.
“This was a very tough decision,” said Obradovic. “I spoke, of course, with all of my players. Nenad has changed his partners all the time. So it was really tough situation for him. Also in Boise to play with a player that he didn’t play for a long time. But still Nenad is a great professional. He played a great match.
“I just spoke with him. You know I have also Novak Djokovic in combination with him. Both of them are better in this moment in rankings, but still I wanted to keep them more fresh, let’s say, Novak and Viktor. It was a very tough decision for myself.”
Bozoljac is ranked 1150 in doubles, and hardly ever plays in the discipline. But against the mighty Bryans he was arguably the best player on the court, crushing serves and slapping backhand winners almost at will during the 4:43 affair.
“We have to tip our hats to those guys, obviously,” said Bob Bryan. “Thought they played really well all day. Thirty-six aces, didn’t give us much opportunity, in the fifth especially. Just one of those things. Obviously disappointed we let the team down.”
Tomorrow Djokovic will try to finish off the U.S. against Sam Querrey. Then, if necessary, it’s Isner against Troicki.
The winner of USA-SRB meets Canada-Italy which is also undecided. And that tie also had a 15-13 doubles thriller, this one won by the homestanding Canadians. Daniel Nestor teamed with youngster Vasek Pospisil to overcome Italians Fabio Fognini and Daniele Bracciali 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 15-13.
The win gave Nestor his 30th career Davis Cup doubles victory and it put Canada up 2-1.
“When you’ve played for 20 years, you’ve played in a lot of tough matches and this is one of the most grueling and most important and I feel fortunate to get a win,” said Nestor. “The last few ties for whatever reason I haven’t come through so it’s nice to help out the team.”
Canada will rely on their ace Milos Raonic tomorrow to put them into their first ever Davis Cup semifinal. Raonic will play Italian No. 1 Andreas Seppi who overcame a two set deficit to Pospisil on Friday.
Also tomorrow, up 2-1 Kazakhstan will try to close out defending champion and the Berdcyh-less Czechs. And France will send Jo-Wilfried Tsonga out to take on Juan Monaco. Despite not having Juan Martin Del Potro and an out-of-form David Nalbandian, Argentina leads the talented French, 2-1.
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