March 7, 2015
Chest-pumping Bob and Mike Bryan held their nerve to keep the USA’s Davis Cup hopes alive with a typically defiant display against the persistent GB pairing of Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot.
As originally expected from the world’s greatest ever tennis double act, the Bryans ultimately defeated the Brits 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-7 (8-10) 9-7, to leave the Americans 1-2 behind going into the final day.
But a battle approaching four hours was a much tougher doubles ride than anyone had predicted, particularly after top Brit Andy Murray had chosen to take a back seat and conserve energy for Sunday.
Jamie Murray and Inglot staged a third-set comeback when they roared to a 4-1 lead and then stayed strong enough to earn themselves a foothold in the match. It was no more than GB deserved and offered a partisan crowd hope of outright victory.
The Scottish spectators were in raptures at the end of the fourth-set tie-break. The Brits saved a match point at 7-8 down, after squandering two set points of their own. Finally Murray and Inglot emerged from the bruising breaker 10-8 winners and ready for a fifth set after two hours and thirty-eight minutes of action.
No one dared predict the outcome at that stage, though perhaps we should have known from their extraordinary record that the Bryan brothers would hold sway at the death, with Mike providing the killer service game.
There were some highly entertaining fireworks in the first set, with Jamie Murray usually at the center of the action. The Scot, playing on home ground, dropped his serve to allow the Bryan brothers to take a 3-1 lead.
Yet Murray immediately made up for his error by engaging his opponents at the net with some high-intensity volleys.
Suddenly Jamie and Ingot were right back in the first set at 3-3, only for Murray to drop his serve yet again. This time there was no way back and the Americans took control to draw first blood.
The Glaswegian crowd tried to rally the Brits but soon fell silent again, as the true masters of their craft showed why they are the best of all time and took the second set with ease.
Then came the biggest test for the Americans. In truth it would have been a surprise if Murray hadn’t inspired GB to some solid resistance in his own country. Inglot played his part manfully as the tide turned in the third. And he saved break points when the USA might have gone 4-2 ahead in the fourth.Indeed Inglot’s serving was the pillar around which GB built their hopes.
Yet two decades of experience helped the Bryans to weather the comeback storm, when a younger pairing might well have crumbled under the increasing pressure.
When the going got tough, the Bryans got going, while Jamie Murray required a medical time-out in the final set. In the end the Americans finished the job in style and reminded us why they have an incredible 104 titles and 16 Grand Slams to their name. Jamie Murray was broken and Mike Bryan made no mistake on serve
Some wondered whether it might have been better to pair Jamie Murray with his brother Andy to try to finish the tie by sending GB into an unassailable 3-0 lead on Saturday.
However, given James Ward’s remarkable victory over John Isner on Friday, most agreed it was worth giving Andy Murray a day’s rest so that he could start strong favorite against Isner in what most predicted would be the deciding match, first up on Sunday.
Ward, who had defeated Isner 6-7 (5-7), 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) 15-13 on Friday, said the next day: ‘It was the highlight of my career and a match I will never forget for the rest of my life.’
Although he claimed he would be sufficiently refreshed to play his part against Donald Young on Sunday if necessary, Ward and the rest of team GB will be hoping Andy Murray gets the job done against Isner.
However, the big American will be equally determined to make up for his surprising defeat against Ward.
So the Bryan brothers’ victory in the doubles has set up a fascinating finale to one of the great Davis Cup ties in Scotland.
Given the amazing drama we’ve seen already in the UK, it is only right this contest should go to the wire.