Bliss for the Bryans: Bryan Brothers Win Wimbledon and Make History

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(July 6, 2013) Coming into the Wimbledon final, Mike and Bob Bryan had won 23 consecutive matches. The last time the twins saw defeat was April 21, 2013 when they failed to capitalize on seven match points against Nenad Zimonjic and Julien Benneteau in the Monte Carlo Masters final.

Less than 15 minutes into today’s final, the Bryan’s opponents, Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Marcelo Melo of Brazil, were playing like the team that hadn’t lost a match in nearly three months. In Bob Bryan’s first service game, the overwhelming underdogs quickly created two break points and converted the second after Dodig nailed a marvelous return at Bob’s feet nd the 6’8 Brazilian put away the response with an overhead.

On their own serve, Dodig and Melo were serving huge facilitating many short points finished by simple volleys and overheads. In addition, Dodig and Melo were varying their formations and really did an effective job keeping the Bryan’s guesing especially with the I-formation. For those not familiar, the I-formation is when the server’s partner crouches down hovering over the center service line as the server moves near the center mark on the baseline. This formation is a difficult one to consistently execute but it keeps the returners guessing because they aren’t sure where the net player and the server will move. Thus, if you have a team like the Bryan’s who can drill cross court returns all day long, it helps to keep them honest and prevents them from entering a rhythm off the return.

Five games in and the Bryan’s were in paramount danger of losing a 6-0 set for the first time since the 2012 Australian Open as they fell behind 5-0. Amazingly enough, the Bryan’s have only ever lost five 6-0 sets during their professional career. The Bryan’s were able to escape from a 0-5, 15-30 hole, break their opponents, and hold once more before dropping the first 6-3 in 31 minutes.

Looking back, the three games the Bryan’s rallied off at the end of the first set were crucial. It was abundantly clear the Bryan’s had gained a sizeable amount of momentum despite losing the set.

This transition in momentum translated into a fast start to the second set. The Bryan’s broke serve after Dodig, who had been extremely potent on serve in the first set, gifted away the break with a double fault.

To make matters worse for Dodig and Melo, their cogency off the return completely vanished in the second set. Daren Cahill of ESPN astutely pointed out that the Bryan’s began to introduce the body serve with increased regularity in the second stanza of the match. This tactic seemed to jam Dodig and Melo both physically and mentally. Not only were the Bryan’s hitting more unreturnable serves, but they seemed to draw Dodig and Melo into a major state of confusion. The Brazilian and the Croatian, when given a chance to cleanly hit a return, continually kept going down the line at the net player. And almost every time they did this, the Bryan’s made sure to make them pay for their mistake and end the point then and there. Such a bizarre strategy, whether decided upon or forced by the powerful serves of the Bryan’s, is not bound to work considering how swift the Bryan’s hands are at net.

All the Bryan’s needed in the second set was one break, and behind 15/16 first serve points won, they closed out the set 6-3 without facing a break point.

As the third set commenced, one of the notes I wrote to myself was “Not seeing too many down the line returns from the Bryans.” Ultimately, one of the main factors in the Bryan’s success in the match was their ability to consistently strike dipping, cross-court returns. Dodig and Melo continually returning at the net player really made breaking serve nearly impossible.

In addition, on serve, Dodig and Melo seemed less willing to stray from standard formation as the Bryans started to dial in on their returns. The lack of formation variation extended to serve placement as Dodig and Melo hit almost all of their serves into the Bryan’s backhand. Serving into the Bryan’s backhand is definitely the smart play but if you do it over and over and over, it becomes far too predictable. The Bryan’s broke to go up 2-1 and were cracking the backhand returns that failed them earlier in the match. Needless to say, the twins had Dodig and Melo right where they wanted them.

The patterns I previously described held suit for the rest of the third set. The only inroad Dodig and Melo made in a service game was when the Bryan’s were serving at 3-2 30-30. Mike Bryan quickly eradicated any notions Dodig and Melo had of breaking nailing a body serve and then an ace to hold for 4-2.

Winning the third set 6-4, the result seemed inevitable. The fourth set was definitely duller than the other sets and was characterized by a series of quick holds. The Bryan’s eventually broke through at 4-4 and put the match in the hands of Bob Bryan’s reliable lefty serve. Bob hit a monstrous serve down the middle at 30-15 and ended the match just like Marion Bartoli did in the Women’s Singles Final– with an ace.

The Bryan’s celebrated the win with their trademark chest-bump. With the victory, the Bryan’s became the first doubles team in the open-era to hold all four majors at the same time. With a win at the U.S. Open in September, the Bryan’s would be the first team to complete the calendar year slam since Ken McGregor and Frank Sedgman did it 1951 and be only the second doubles team in tennis history to do so.

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