Bryan brothers stake US to 2-1 Davis Cup lead

Published 9:48 pm Saturday, March 7, 2009

BIRMINGHAM — Bob and Mike Bryan deftly handled the pressure, then placed it squarely on teammate Andy Roddick.

The powerhouse doubles team came through for the United States again with a four-set victory over Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka and Yves Allegro on Saturday to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead in the opening round of the Davis Cup.

Now, Mike Bryan predicted, Roddick will clinch the best-of-five series by beating Wawrinka in Sunday’s first reverse singles match.

“We call him the closer,” Bryan said in a live TV interview on the court. “When we put him up 2-1, he always shuts it down for us. He’s going to bring everything he has tomorrow. And I guarantee he’s going to shut it down tomorrow.”

He retreated somewhat from that bold statement afterward. Then again, Roddick is 10-0 with a chance to clinch a series on the final day and has 30 singles victories in the Davis Cup.

“I don’t want to put that extra pressure on my teammate,” Mike Bryan said. “It kind of slipped out. He has an amazing record at 2-1. He puts everything out there. I’d rather be watching him shut the door than be playing.”

The top-ranked twins beat Allegro and Wawrinka 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (2). With the win, the Bryans became the winningest U.S. Davis Cup doubles team at 15-2, passing John McEnroe/Peter Fleming and Wilmer Allison/John Van Ryn, and moved to 16-1 overall this year.

“We’re just plugging away,” Bob Bryan said. “I truly didn’t know that we were playing for the record, at all. It’s great to look at when you retire. When you’re in the heat of the moment, still in the battle, you just want to keep trying to get better and look for ways to improve.”

If Roddick fails to seal the series against Wawrinka, and send the U.S. to the quarterfinals against Croatia in July, James Blake will attempt to do it against Marco Chiudinelli in the final match. Blake lost the opener Friday to Wawrinka, while Roddick beat Chiudinelli in straight sets.

The winner will play at Croatia, a 3-0 winner over Chile, on July 8-10.

Swiss captain Severin Luthi countered Mike Bryan’s guarantee with one of his own.

“Nice statement,” Luthi said. “We don’t really care about what they said, honestly. If they said that they’re going to close, it’s good for them.

“I tell you that it’s going to be 2-all after the match of Stan. That’s my statement.”

The Bryan twins’ victory was a good sign for the U.S., which has a 180-22 Davis Cup record after winning the doubles point and is well below .500 when it loses.

The match had turned tight until the tiebreaker, when the U.S. tandem won the first four points and were fueled by the crowd of 15,867.

“It really feels like a home-court advantage,” Mike Bryan said. “It lifts us. I think that’s what kept our energy high in that breaker. They kind of pushed us through the finish line.”

Switzerland broke that tiebreaker streak when Bob Bryan lost control of his racket on a leaping overhead volley, but he iced it with an overhead shot a few minutes later.

“They started very good,” Wawrinka said. “Then they were serving very good, so it was tough to come back on the tiebreaker.”

Wawrinka, who captured the Olympic gold medal in doubles with Roger Federer, has only won one of four Davis Cup doubles matches. The No. 2-ranked Federer is out with an ailing back.

The Bryans dominated their service games. The Swiss managed only two points against the Bryans’ serve in the first set and eight in 13 service games before Wawrinka and Allegro took command of the third set after finally breaking Mike Bryan’s serve.

U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe said the Bryans belong in the conversation among the best Davis Cup doubles teams he has seen.

“They’re certainly right there at the top,” McEnroe said. “If not at the top, certainly pretty darn close.”