Serbia goes into the final day of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinal tie against the USA holding a slim but very important 2-1 lead. In a stunning doubles match that had fans in the stadium in Boise, Idaho, on the edge of their seats, Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac survived a dramatic four hour 23 minute match to defeat Bob and Mike Bryan 7-6(5) 7-6(1) 5-7 4-6 15-13.
“We have to tip our hats to those guys, obviously,” said Bob Bryan. “Thought they played really well all day. Thirty-six aces, didn’t give us much opportunity, in the fifth especially. Just one of those things. Obviously disappointed we let the team down.
“I want to thank Captain Courier for being there for four and a half hours, pushing us. I want to thank the crowd, they brought the energy all day long. That’s as vocal as we’ve seen a Davis Cup crowd in a long time. They were cheering on every point. Thanks to them.
“It was a fun match to play. Hate to be on the other side of it, but too good by those guys.”
There was surprise when the Serb captain Bogdan Obradovic announced that he was not deviating from his originally nominated combination. Most believed that either Novak Djokovic or Viktor Troicki would step in but Obradovic had every faith in Bozoljac who is ranked No. 1,150 in doubles.
“This was a very tough decision,” said Obdarovic. “I spoke, of course, with all of my players. Nenad has changed his partners all the time. So it was really tough situation for him. Also in Boise to play with a player that he didn’t play for a long time. But still Nenad is a great professional. He played a great match.
“I just spoke with him. You know I have also Novak Djokovic in combination with him. Both of them are better in this moment in rankings, but still I wanted to keep them more fresh, let’s say, Novak and Viktor. It was a very tough decision for myself.
“I just want to congratulate to Nenad and, of course, to Ilija. They played a great tennis. That’s the part of my team, why we are very strong, we have good relationship.”
It was obviously paying dividends but then when the Bryans staged their amazing comeback it seemed the Serb decision was coming back to haunt him. The final set had all the suspense of a television thriller. Late in the set the Bryans were coming within two points of winning but just couldn’t take the next point.
Then in the 27th game Mike Bryan dropped his serve. Zimonjic was serving for the match but even then it was far from over as the Americans had two break back points. Zimonjic puffed out his chest, called on his experience and cracked back-to-back aces. It got to match point but on the second chance he cracked another ace to clinch the win.
“I was amazed with some shots, some points that we created, all four players, some reflexes. It was just amazing,” said Zimonjic.
“You just have to stay focused, try to enjoy as much as you can. Ilija was saying to me, ‘Keep smiling’. A couple of times I look in the crowd trying to feed off the crowd, the energy. We had great support here from Serbian fans, even though it was incredible atmosphere throughout the match. It was very fair crowd. I hope they enjoyed it as much as we did. And we certainly did.”
For the only time in their careers the Bryans have lost two consecutive Davis Cup doubles matches and both in five sets.
Bob Bryan was first to lose serve in the match, it happened in the fifth game of the first set but the Americans hit back straightaway by breaking Zimonjic in the next game. They went to the breaker without facing anymore break points. The Americans started the breaker strongly, opening up a 4-1 lead and it looked like they were really starting to fire.
However, Zimonjic showed why he has been ranked No.1 in the world. He steered his side back into the tiebreak with three straight points and then won the last two points of the tiebreak – first with a second serve ace and then he rifled a return that Mike Bryan let go only to see it land on the baseline.
The second set went with serve and when they got to yet another tiebreak the crowd, while still in full voice were starting to wonder what was going on. How could the Bryans be in such a tight situation and was the Davis Cup loss they suffered in February coming back to haunt them?
Bob Bryan was not quite at the top of his game whereas Zimonjic continued to be the standout that was very ably supported by Bozoljac. The tiebreak was over in the blink of an eye. Serbia went up 6-0 before the Americans secured their only point with Bozoljac then slamming down an ace at the T-junction to take the visitors up two-sets-to-love.
The Americans kept their dream alive for a bit longer when out of nowhere, in the 12th game the Bryan boys struck. Bozoljac had not been threatened on his serve but from out of the blue the Bryans had three break points and broke to love. There was no doubt the crowd loved every minute of that rally and the roar of approval could have been heard the other side of the mountain range that is part of the backdrop to the city of Boise.
And the Bryans did it again. They broke the Serbs for the fourth set, this time Zimonjic. Mike Bryan sent the ball to Zimonjic’s feet and the Serb, who has been a pillar of strength, could not do anything with the ball and dribbled it into the net. If the crowd were deafening before, this time the sound barrier was broken.
Bob Bryan got the home side off to an important lead in the final set and held serve managing to stay one game ahead till 13-13. In the next game Mike served and dropped serve. They were devastated but never stopped trying to come back and nearly did, but in the end Zimonjic put the exclamation mark on the match.
This was the second longest Davis Cup doubles match in time, by one minute, for the United States.
The pressure is very much on the Americans now as Novak Djokovic takes on Sam Querrey in the first reverse singles.
“Well, we said on Thursday there are going to be five tough matches,” said US captain Jim Courier. “So far three for three, with two more to go. Yesterday after the singles, the mission was always to come out, play well today, then win two singles matches on Sunday no matter where we stood.
“Nothing changes. Team dynamics are different than probably what you guys are used to. We know where we stand, what we have to do. The mission doesn’t change: go out there and put W’s on the board.”