Bryans win doubles to clinch quarterfinal spot for United States

Bryans win doubles to clinch quarterfinal spot for United States

Saturday, February 7, 2004

(02-07) 12:41 PST UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) —

Moments after clinching a Davis Cup quarterfinal berth, twins Bob and Mike Bryan began a victory lap around the court with a giant U.S. flag.

As Neil Diamond’s “America” blared over the arena’s speakers, the world’s top-ranked doubles team was joined in the jog by former singles No. 1 Andy Roddick and Robby Ginepri, who just cracked the top 25.

U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe smiled and applauded as he watched the celebration, knowing this quartet of players could be capable of ending the country’s longest Davis Cup title drought since the 1930s.

The Bryans dominated Jurgen Melzer and Julian Knowle 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 Saturday to give the hosts an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the best-of-five first-round matchup against Austria. The doubles victory followed Friday’s singles wins by Roddick and Ginepri.

“Long term, I feel really good about where we are headed,” McEnroe said. “With this group of guys, supporting each other, we can realistically say every year, ‘We can win it.’ I certainly feel that way about this year.”

His squad was upset by Croatia in last year’s first round, extending a dismal Davis Cup stretch for a country with a record 31 titles — but none since 1995. That’s the Americans’ longest gap since the 11 years between victories in 1926 and 1937.

When Melzer’s return sailed long on match point, the Bryan brothers dropped their rackets, ran toward each other and jumped to bump chests. By beating Austria, the United States improved to 28-0 in first-round series on American soil.

“Playing at home, they look very, very solid,” said Austrian captain Gunter Bresnik, who said 1995 French Open champion Thomas Muster probably will replace him. “As we saw today, they obviously have the best doubles team in the world.”

The United States will face defending champion Australia or Sweden in April’s quarterfinals. Sweden leads host Australia 2-1 entering Sunday’s singles matches.

Argentina also qualified for the quarterfinals, taking a 3-0 lead against Morocco. In other first-round matches, the Czech Republic leads Spain 2-1, France leads Croatia 2-1, Russia leads Belarus 2-1, Switzerland leads Romania 2-1, and the Netherlands leads Canada 2-1.

The Bryans put on a textbook doubles display, knowing just when to take one step to cut off an angle or when to switch sides during a point.

“There was no chance for us,” Melzer said. “They did everything better than we did.”

The twins truly are interchangeable on court, with matching white caps, red shirts, blue shorts and striped sneakers. There are two ways to tell them apart at a glance: Bob wears a string of beads around his neck; Bob’s left-handed, Mike’s right-handed.

They’re the third set of brothers to play Davis Cup for the United States; McEnroe and older brother John are one of the other pairs. While this was just the Bryans’ second Davis Cup match (they’re 2-0), they are an accomplished doubles team.

They won the 2003 French Open title and were finalists at the 2003 U.S. Open and 2004 Australian Open. Melzer and Knowle, by contrast, dropped to 0-4 in Davis Cup doubles action, and they are only 5-4 in ATP Tour play.

Asked about McEnroe’s role as captain, Bob Bryan said: “He just keeps us loose. You know, the brother chemistry is pretty delicate, and he knows how to work it so we don’t get on each other.”

At which point McEnroe said with a chuckle: “I have some experience.”

The Austrians picked up their only service break of Saturday’s match off Mike Bryan to tie the third set at 4-4.

“Nerves got to me a little bit there,” Mike Bryan said.

But in the very next game, Knowle double-faulted to 0-40, and again on the next point to make it 5-4 for the United States. Bob Bryan then served out the victory.

The Americans moved ahead 4-2 in the first set with help from Melzer, who double-faulted twice in the sixth game, including on break point.

When Knowle hit a volley wide on break point at 5-2, the Americans owned the first set. During the ensuing changeover, Melzer and Bresnik argued the call, saying Knowle’s shot was in.

Melzer showed more frustration later. He spiked his racket to the court like a football after dumping a backhand into the net in the second set, and he hammered the net with his racket after missing a volley in the next game.

Perhaps Melzer was still thinking about Friday, when his 12 double-faults helped Ginepri rally to beat him 6-7 (6), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to become the first U.S. rookie in Davis Cup history to win a match after dropping the first two sets.

U.S. Open champion Roddick ripped a serve at a record 150 mph during his 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Stefan Koubek on Friday.

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