By: Jane Voigt
Bob and Mike Bryan won their fourth ATP World Tour Final doubles championship today, defeating Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo at London’s O2 Arena. Their victory lifted their season’s title total to 10, the best of all ATP teams.
The identical twins normally celebrate a victory with their signature chest bump. However, today’s muted showing of affection, as they hugged each other while on their knees at the baseline, revealed a deeper sense of what the win meant to them.
“We really love what we do,” Bob told fans. “We love coming to London and playing here.” Bob thanked his family and coach David MacPherson, adding, “You’ve been a rock.” He has coached the twins since 2005.
Bob also thanked Barclay’s PLC, the title sponsor of the event, saying, “Thanks for putting up the dough for this thing. You guys have really supported doubles.”
Statements by “the boys,” as they are fondly called at times, to the 10,000 fans on-hand reflected their spirited nature and commitment to their game. The 36-year-olds act as one on court, which presents opponents a formidable task to conquer. The pair rallied from a set down to win, and the score was 6-7(5), 6-2, 10-7.
“Congrats to the Bryans,” Dodig began, adding with irony. “What’s it one-thousand…two-thousand now?”
Dodig and Melo did not win any titles this year. However, the team, which is a balance of power and grace, made four finals in their second-year of competition together. They were seeded No. 7 this week.
“[It was the] same in Wimbledon,” Melo said, smiling. “Every moment is special for doubles players. The crowd support was great. Well done to the guys, for one more.”
The Brazilian has known a lot of heartbreak in London courtesy of the American twins over recent years. Melo’s remark might’ve referred to last year’s Wimbledon final, where his and Dodig’s Cinderella run came to an end with a four-set defeat. A year later, he again had a chance to defeat the Bryans on the All-England Club’s hallowed lawns, with Austrian Julian Knowle by his side. The twins fell behind 0-5 in the first set, which was highlighted by a whiffed volley from Mike Bryan. However, they pulled together, reversed the downward trend and again advanced to the finals of that honored Grand Slam. While they fell short in five sets there to Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil, they went on to win the U. S. Open in September and ended the year with 16 Grand Slams to their credit.
Overall, today’s final was tight. But that’s true of every doubles encounter that uses no-ad scoring and a 10-point super tiebreak as a substitute for a third set. There’s no room for mistakes.
In the first set, Mike and Bob were multiple points down in the tiebreak only to come even using crisp volleys and good returns of serves. Yet a snap later, Mike seemed to slip and was forced to hit a sloppy overhead. It gave Dodig and Melo set point, which they grabbed.
The scoring sharpens players’ concentration, adding an element to the game that’s missing in singles. Yesterday, Roger Federer held off four match points in his semifinal win over friend and countryman, Stan Wawrinka. That back-and-forth of points gained and lost doesn’t exist in a doubles world. Errors are serious and, at times, fatal to the outcome of a match.
Aside from the razors-edge excitement of the match, there were occasions for all-court antics. In the second set with the Bryan brothers up a break, Bob ran down a ball a the baseline. He returned it, using a between-the-legs shot — a tweener — that fell into play for their opponents. Dodig attempted to one-up the display, using another tweener. He slipped and fell for a moment, leaving Melo alone to defend an incoming smash; unfortunately for the Croatian and Brazilian pair, the circus point ended when Melo’s reply flew out of bounds. The twins responded with a signature chest bump, while the crowd was on its feet, applauding with delight.
The super tiebreak raised the level of excitement even higher. The Bryans took a quick lead, but Dodig and Melo never relented. Smart serves from Melo plus heavy ground strokes and volleys from Dodig inched them to within a couple points of upsetting the expected winners. However, at 9-7 Bob hit a 130 mph ace for game, set, match and championship.
Mike’s and Bob’s light-hearted mannerisms, enthusiastic outlook, and stunning professional record make them difficult to dislike. Born and raised in California, the twins seem to epitomize a lifestyle capable of risk, reward and abundant happiness.
They broke through to win over 100 titles this year, ending with their 104th today. They end the year as the No. 1 team for the sixth consecutive time, and 10th overall. They are the only doubles team to simultaneously hold all four majors, Olympic Gold (2012), all nine ATP Masters 1000 doubles titles, and a Davis Cup title. Finally, Bob and Mike scored their 900th match win this year in Paris, defeating World Tour Final semifinalists Lukas Kubot and Robert Lindstedt.
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