MELBOURNE, Australia – A tactical switch helped Bob and Mike Bryan win their eighth Grand Slam doubles title just after the midnight hour Sunday morning here on Rod Laver Arena when they beat Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 to break a losing streak against the Canadian/Serbian pair.
The Bryans trailed 8-3 in head-to-head meetings and had lost the previous five matches. So, in consultation with their Australian coach, David MacPherson, it was decided to switch the right-handed Mike Bryan to the deuce court and the left-handed Bob to the advantage court.
Australian Open radio analyst Ashley Fisher, himself a current doubles player on the ATP tour, explained that it was intended to prevent Zimonjic and Nestor swinging the serve wide to Bob's weaker backhand side in the deuce court. It worked. Mike returned serve particularly well off both flanks in his new position and it was only at the end of the second set when the Bryans squandered a 5-2 lead that their opponents grabbed the upper hand. Bob actually had two serves at 5-4 but a fine return and a poor volley ensured that there would be a deciding set.
"Yeah, we thought we would try something different," said Mike. "They've kind of had our number. We decided to throw a new look at them. We used to play like that early in our career. Our first time in a Grand Slam final playing that way, but it seemed to help. They served extremely big. It's a little easier to take the inside-out backhand cross court. So, yeah, could be the way of the future. We'll see."
Typically the ever-optimistic twins did not allow the sudden loss of the second set to get them down. Ever bouncing up and down -- they produced their famous chest bump on breaking serve in the first set -- they moved up a gear at the start of the third and began to dominate the match against their big-serving opponents.
"In a Grand Slam final you don't want to let anything get you down," said Bob. "I thought we stayed extremely positive. We didn't second-guess each other. I thought actually our energy went up in the third. We kind of had an out-of-body experience, kind of just got us across the finish line somehow. It was great."
Amazingly these two pairs had only ever met in finals -- and only once before in a Grand Slam. That was at Wimbledon last year when Nestor and Zimonjic won in four sets -- three of them tiebreakers. On this occasion, Zimonjic could not match the excellence of his volleys with consistency on the return of serve, especially off Bob's swinging lefty delivery and that played a key part in the Bryans securing a victory that takes them into second place on the all-time list of winning doubles teams in Grand Slams.
They have now won eight -- three fewer than Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge, who were inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame here this week. Previously the Bryans were tied with such illustrious names as John McEnroe and Peter Fleming and John Newcombe and Tony Roche.
Now the sky's the limit because the 31-year-old Bryans are not going away.
"We'd love to keep going as long as possible," said Mike. "Bodies feel good. Not taking a lot of Advil which is good. Doubles is a sport you can play up until you're almost 40. Yeah, we still have a lot of goals we want to achieve so we're going to keep doing it."