WHAT HAPPENED: Another year, another landmark achievement within reach for the American doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan.
A year ago at the US Open it was the calendar year Grand Slam – having won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon leading into New York – which the twins were chasing. Twelve months later the No. 1-ranked team in the world entered the year’s final major with 99 career titles as a pair, the most in history.
Inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday they took another step towards reaching the century mark with a hard-fought 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory over the unseeded duo of fellow Americans Scott Lipsky and Rajeev Ram
The Bryans would be the first team in tennis history to win 100 tournaments together, a stat that has been hovering over their heads throughout their two weeks at the US Open.
“Going for 100 on Sunday is going to be something special,” Mike Bryan said of the doubles final on Sunday. “We’d love to get it done now and here at the Open.”
The Bryans have won four US Open crowns and were finalists in 2003.
It was in the semifinals that they were stopped a year ago in their quest for the Grand Slam, losing to eventual champions Leander Paes of India and Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic on this very same court.
Thursday they jumped to a one-set lead on Lipsky-Ram before getting broken to open the second set. The rest of the second set went on serve to force a third and decisive set, the third time this tournament that the Bryans were pushed to the limit.
But the world No. 1 team proved superior in the third, coming back from a 15-40 hole in the fifth game and then breaking serve in the next to take a 4-2 lead. It proved insurmountable for Lipsky-Ram, who had taken the Bryans to five sets in their most recent meeting in the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2012.
“We just got it going [in the third set],” Bob Bryan added on court. “We could see the finish line and just said to one another, ’15 more minutes, let’s go hard.’ Luckily the balls fell and we’re going to the finals.”
WHAT IT MEANS: The Bryan brothers will play the No. 11-seeded Spanish team of Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in Sunday’s final.
The Bryan brothers are 5-2 against Granollers-Lopez, though the Spaniards own the only meeting between the two teams at a Slam, capturing a straight-sets victory in the French Open quarterfinals earlier this year.
For now, they’re trying to keep their minds clear the next two days of the magnitude of what a win would mean.
“Bob is going to take his kids to Central Park, and I’m going to keep my mind off that 100th title,” Mike said. “We’re going to practice and give it everything we’ve got. We’re pumped. We’re looking forward to another final here at the Open.”
THE QUESTION: Can the Bryan brothers win their 100th career title – and fifth US Open – on Sunday?