Bryans give America edge over Aussies in Davis Cup

 05 Mar 2016 - 10:33

Bryans give America edge over Aussies in Davis Cup
Mike Bryan (R) watches as his brother Bob Bryan of the US (L) plays a shot against Lleyton Hewitt and John Peers of Australia during the men's doubles match at the World Group first round Davis Cup tennis tournament at Kooyong in Melbourne on March 5, 2016. (AFP / Paul Crock)

 

Melbourne: The crack Bob and Mike Bryan doubles combination gave the United States a crucial edge in their Davis Cup World Group tie with a thrilling five-set win over the Lleyton Hewitt-inspired Australians at Kooyong on Saturday.

The 16-time Grand Slam and London Olympics doubles champions looked to be cruising to victory, breezing through the opening two sets before Hewitt and debutant John Peers forced a fifth set.

But the telepathic American twins proved too strong in the deciding set, winning 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours 30 minutes to give their team a vital 2-1 lead in the best-of-five rubber tie.

Jim Courier's Americans can wrap up the first-round tie on Kooyong's grass court with just one more victory in Sunday's reverse singles through their top-rated John Isner -- who faces Australia's Bernard Tomic -- or Jack Sock.

"It's going to be an exciting day for sure, Bernie played awfully well yesterday, but so did John," US captain Courier said.

"Hopefully John has been a little fresher than Bernie given he only played three sets.

"But it's going to be exciting, the crowd's going to be jacked up. We're going to be ready for a fifth match obviously too, and at this stage we don't know necessarily if it's going to be Sam (Groth) or Lleyton playing in that fifth."

Hewitt ended his short-lived retirement to play in his 42nd Davis Cup tie, replacing Groth and the gamble looked like paying off as he and Peers seized the momentum and took the match into a fifth set.

But the Bryans finished clinically, breaking Peers's opening service game to lead 2-0 and then rolled through the final set in just 26 minutes.

It took the accomplished Bryan brothers' record in the Davis Cup team competition to 24-4 in the doubles since their debut for their country in 2003.

"It was a great atmosphere. Obviously Lleyton being on the court even notched it up a level," Bob Bryan said.

"When they won the fourth it was pretty darn loud and I just thought we did a great job of regrouping and we even went to a new level that we haven't even found in a year."

They targeted 35-year-old Hewitt early in the match and broke his service twice to lead two sets to love.

But the big-hearted Australian legend inspired a tenacious comeback with the impressive newcomer Peers to ignite the home crowd and give the Australians a whiff of an upset win.

However, the Bryans regained control and the momentum to win on their fourth match point on left-handed Bob Bryan's dominant serve.

"It was more about keeping it going and keep holding our serves and wait for that small opportunity to try and get a break and we didn't doubt ourselves at any stage," Hewitt said.

"To our credit we hung in there and gave ourselves at least a shot in the end.

"We made the decision last night. Just sharing the workload really. That was the determining factor."

Australia's Tomic will attempt to keep the home tie alive when he takes on world number 11 Isner in the first of the reverse singles.

"We need Bernie to win, so it's pretty simple at the moment. That's our main focus," Hewitt said.

"He's our number one player, he's the leader of the team and he played awfully well yesterday and we're going to need that again out of him tomorrow."

Hewitt will then have a big decision to make as to whether he plays Groth, who faded away in straight sets to Isner on Friday, or put himself forward in the potential tie-deciding singles match against Sock.

AFP