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Golden Bryans make history in Gentlemen's doubles

by Stuart Appleby
Saturday 6 July 2013

The pressure of playing against the history books is often overwhelming but it is the kind of pressure the Bryan brothers play the game of tennis for. 

The Californian-born partnership entered their sixth Wimbledon Men's Doubles final knowing that victory would enable them to complete a remarkable non-calendar-year Golden Grand Slam (holding all four majors and the Olympics simultaneously), and it was an opportunity they were never going to let slip through their hands.

On a sun-drenched Centre Court, Mike and Bob defeated Grand Slam final debutants, Marcelo Melo and Ivan Dodig, to become the first partnership in the Open era to achieve the feat, given Frank Sedgman and Ken McGregor's Grand Slam was achieved in 1951, before players turned professional.

The Bryans' third doubles title at the All England Club, adding to the trophies they won in 2006 and 2011, is their 15th major and now means they are only one Slam away from winning the Calendar Grand Slam (all four majors in the same year), should they triumph at their home tournament, the US Open, in September. 

"In the context of our career, it is probably up there at the top," said Mike. "I didn't think anything could feel as sweet as the gold medal, but this one just feels like there's a cap, a lid, or a ribbon around our career. It's pretty cool. It's something we never dreamed of, to try to win four in a row. It's too hard to dominate in doubles. Maybe we had a little luck involved along the way. We just took one at a time. It just added up. Now we got to try to suit back up for the calendar Slam. I don't even want to think about that."

The ice cool pair perhaps let the weight of record-breaking affect them in the opening set and their opponents, playing on Centre Court for the very first time, were certainly not overawed and started off as if they were seasoned finalists at Wimbledon. 

Melo and Dodig's fairytale run to the final, which included the upset of fourth seeds and 2012 Australian Open champions Radek Stepanek and Leander Paes in a five-set semi-final thriller, began as well as they could have hoped. 

The serve of Croat Dodig was on song and superbly backed up by the agility and briskness of Melo at the net. In the second game of the match, Dodig fired a splendid return at the shoe strings of Mike, who somehow retrieved it, but Melo smashed the ball home to give the unseeded pair an early break of Bob's serve.

Just two games later, the 12th seeds showed no mercy and secured a double break to race into a four love lead. Although the Bryans did get one break back to offer some rest bite and reduce the first set score to 5-3, Dodig served it out without any problems.

Following the surprising outcome of the opener, the Bryans lived up to their top seed billing in the second, and appeared buoyed by their in-depth tactical chat during the break in play. Indeed, the momentum they gained at the tail end of the first set was an ingredient which would stay with them for the remainder of the match.

The American's comfortably held their opening service game and a double fault by Dodig in the second game gifted their opponents the advantage.Melo and Dodig's rhythm had certainly been disrupted and the solitary break was more than enough for the top seeds to take the second set 6-3 and level proceedings.

It was important for the Brazil-Croatian partnership to stay toe-to-toe with the multiple Grand Slam champions early on in the third, who are one Slam shy of equalling Australian Todd Woodbridge's haul of 16. But, it wasn't the way it unfolded.

A trademark surge to the net and an immaculate winning volley by Bob was all that was needed to secure a break in the third game of the third set, and given the Bryans' experience in these types of situations, the tide had certainly changed, and it was a heavy tide at that.

The Bryans' wrapped up the third 6-4 and the 35-year-olds' energetic brand of tennis bared similarities to the youthfulness they showed in Paris in 2003, when they won their first major together at the French Open.

One break, again, was all that was required in the fourth set, and it came at a crucial moment. With the score level at 4-4, and Dodig serving, the quartet jostled around the net before Mike threaded a forehand between his opponents to secure a virtual match point.

Mike, who had barely been threatened on serve, held convincingly to round off the set, 6-4.

Cue, the brothers' (famous) celebratory chest pump.

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