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Seven up for the Bryan brothers

Bob and Mike Bryan on Court 6
by Vivienne Christie
Friday 4 July 2014

For all the history that Bob and Mike Bryan have achieved at the All England Club, there is a sense of urgency in this year’s campaign.

Having sealed a simultaneous “Golden Slam” with victory in the men’s doubles event at Wimbledon in 2013 – all four Grand Slam crowns and an Olympic gold medal – the most famous brothers in tennis entered the 2014 Championships having faltered early in their defence of every other major.

At 36, there are clearly only so many more opportunities to add to the record 15 Grand Slams they’ve claimed together. But for now the Bryans have another one, having defeated Michael Llodra and Nicolas Mahut 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-2 to set up a Championship showdown with Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock, surprise 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-4 winners over Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek.

It will be the American twins’ seventh appearance in the final of the Championships, the duo winning those high-stake matches in 2006, 2011 and 2013. Having dropped two sets at this year’s tournament – in the first round, against Australians Matt Ebden and Sam Groth, and another one against Julian Knowle and Marcelo Melo in the quarter-final – the pair would undoubtedly love another straightforward match like Friday’s.

The only blip in the one hour 46 minute outing occurred in the 53-minute first set, when Mike Bryan – the younger twin by two minutes – dropped serve in the eighth game. The Americans had earlier edged ahead by breaking the Llodra serve and soon restored order with a win in the tie-break.

While some typically flashy shot-making from the Bryans made it an entertaining spectacle for those watching on No.1 court, there were none of the chest bumps that have become their celebratory trademark – most likely because their rarely needed to be.

In a sturdy performance, the afternoon progressively became easier for the defending champions, who claimed an early break of serve in the second set to win it in 34 minutes and a double break in the third to secure it in 19.

The Bryans’ day might have been made slightly easier by an injury to Llodra, who was treated for a lower back problem in the first set, but the competitive spirit of the No.12 seeds was nevertheless clear to see. At 34, the soon-to-retire Llodra was contesting his last Wimbledon, while the 32-year-old Mahut would dearly love to be remembered for more than his history-making marathon singles match against John Isner in 2010.

So now the Bryans will aim to claim their fourth Wimbledon, and a mind-boggling 99th title overall together. They’ve claimed a handy five of those titles in 2014, but none at a Grand Slam, so they are relishing their big opportunity at SW19. “We've had a great career here at Wimbledon,” said Mike. “It would be amazing. This is the tournament everyone wants to win. Even if you don’t know what tennis is, you know Wimbledon.”

Also making this final special is playing it against another American, in 21-year-old Sock, and a North American neighbour in Pospisil, the 24-year-old Canadian. More than a dozen years separates the Bryans from their younger opponents, but that’s unlikely to trouble the experienced duo.

In their 15th Wimbledon, the twins still dazzle opponents and spectators alike as they compete with youthful ambition. Come finals time, there’s also the powerful motivation to add even more history at a long-favoured event.

“We've been playing doubles together since we were six,” they agreed. “It gives us goose bumps walking out here.”

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20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...

20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."

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