By Mario Sarmento
On the court, they look identical, but there are some key features that separate Mike and Bob Bryan. Bob favors the clean-shaven look and plays left-handed, wearing his wristband on his left hand and his watch on the right. Mike has a scruffy beard, is right-handed, and wears his white wristband on the right hand, with his watch on the left.
Like most twins, they seem to have a telepathic link that is apparent on the court, where they move and play in almost-perfect synch. When Mike retreats, Bob goes forward, and vice-versa. They know each other so well that they rarely communicate when a ball is hit back to them, and that chemistry has translated into more wins and titles than any men’s doubles team in the Open era.
The Bryan brothers are a step closer to yet another men’s doubles title, as they reached the 2014 Sony Open Tennis tournament final for the first time since 2008 with a 7-6 (2), 6-2 victory over No. 8 seed Michael Llodra and Nicolas Mahut of France on Court 1 Thursday afternoon. “It feels good,” Mike said. “We’re on kind of a roll ever since Delray (Beach). Playing real well, just, we’re hot. I feel like we’re doing our things well, and it feels good to be in another final.”
Both teams held serve through the first 12 games of the match, necessitating a tiebreak, and after losing the first point, the Bryans took control, winning the next four to take a commanding 4-1 lead. During that stretch, Mike served an ace to put them ahead 3-1, and Bob took advantage of a second straight well-placed serve to put away the point with a smash. Another fine serve by Bob on match point forced a long return by Mahut, and the Bryans clinched the first set.
The Bryans carried that momentum into the second set, forcing a deciding point on a smash by Bob, then breaking Mahut and Llodra when Mahut’s volley was long. The Bryans broke Mahut and Llodra again two games later to all but end the match. In the last game, the Bryans followed their winning formula to perfection: Mike delivered a well-placed serve which Mahut returned without much force, setting up a Bob smash at the net.
Afterwards, they delighted their fans, as Bob signed tennis balls, and Mike hit them into the stands. They also tossed their wristbands to their supporters, clearly enjoying the moment. The Bryan brothers have not been pushed to a third set so far in the tournament, and they seek their third men’s doubles title, which would be second all-time at Key Biscayne, and will try to add to their record total of 95 doubles titles.
To do that, they’ll have to beat the unseeded Colombian duo of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, who rallied to beat Americans Jack Sock and Ryan Harrison 2-6, 6-4 (11-9) to reach their first doubles final at the Sony Open.
The Americans took the first set, but watched as the Colombians rallied amid opposing fan cries of “Colombia!” and “U-S-A!” throughout the match. After Cabal and Farah rallied to win the second set, they took a seemingly insurmountable 8-4 lead in the tiebreak, only to watch as Harrison and Sock mounted a furious rally, winning the next four points to even the score.
The teams traded the next three points, with a Harrison backhand into the net on serve giving Cabal and Farah a 10-9 lead. With the crowd in full throat, Farah served, and Cabal was at the net to make the final smash to send the Colombians into the doubles final.
The Americans won the first set easily, helped by a big break at 2-2 in the fifth game, when Ryan Harrison hit a backhand crosscourt winner on the deciding point.