Brazil upsets Bryan brothers, cuts US lead to 2-1
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Brazil's doubles team of Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares upset the top-ranked Mike and Bob Bryan 7-6 (6), 6-7 (7), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 and kept the United States from clinching the first-round Davis Cup match.
The Bryan brothers have been the most successful doubles duo in Davis Cup history, with a record 20 wins and only two losses when playing together. But Melo and Soares beat the U.S. duo for the third time in four meetings overall.
"(The Brazilian team) came out with something to prove and played an extremely high level of doubles and made some great gets," U.S. team captain Jim Courier said. "I'm sure (our) guys can play at a higher level. I'm not sure that those guys can. To their credit, they played great today and they deserved to win."
The tone of the match may have been established in the first set when the Bryan brothers held a 5-1 lead in the tiebreaker. They lost the next couple points but won the next point for a 6-3 lead and a triple-set advantage.
But they failed to convert on any of the next three chances as the Brazilians gained momentum and won five consecutive points for the set win.
With neither side able to break the other's serve, the second set also went to a tiebreaker. Brazil looked as if it would jump to a 2-0 set lead when it had three set-point opportunities at 6-3.
But this time the Brazilians couldn't convert on any of their chances and when Melo and Soares hit consecutive shots into the net with a 7-7 score, the U.S. team evened the match at one set.
Brazil rebounded and went on to win the third and fifth sets to record a win that Soares called, "this ranks number one for sure. It's very special."
The Bryans entered the match with momentum, having captured their 13th Grand Slam title two weeks earlier by winning the Australian Open.
"There's no doubt on paper, they're a better team than us," Soares said. "But we got a good record against them.
"To beat these guys you have to be 110 percent. Today we showed we were 110 percent, most important for five sets."
The Bryans rallied in the fourth set. They broke Melo's serve in the sixth game with Bob Bryan's backhand volley winner giving them a 4-2 lead. They went on to hold their serve to close out the set at 6-3.
The Bryans lost a chance to gain a break, but couldn't convert two break points in the third game. In the eighth game with Brazil holding a 4-3 lead, things fell apart for the two Americans who lost Mike Bryan's serve at love.
In the ninth game with the score at 30-30, both Bryans hit shots that sailed long or wide, leaving the Brazilian team and its small but raucous crowd to erupt in celebration.
"Hats off to the Brazilians," Bob Bryan said. "I thought they served well pretty much of the four hours. We're obviously disappointed. I feel we're capable of playing at a higher level."
Attention turns to Sunday's two singles matches. John Isner will meet Thomaz Bellucci in the opener with Sam Querrey taking on Thiago Alves if the match is tied 2-2. Isner and Querrey were both straight-set winners in their Friday matches.
"(Isner and Querrey) are well-prepared. They come in with three sets under their belt from yesterday which is good for their confidence, not damaging to their physical fitness," Courier said.