GLASGOW, Scotland — The Bryan brothers kept the United States alive in the Davis Cup on Saturday, and buried some bad memories in the process.
Bob and Mike Bryan held off a comeback by scratch pairing Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot to win the doubles against Britain in five sets, reducing the Americans’ deficit to 2-1 in the first-round tie.
The 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-7 (8), 9-7 victory ensured the chest-bumping Californian twins, who are the most successful doubles partnership in the Open era with 104 ATP titles, still have never lost after going two sets up.
And it made amends for tough five-set losses to Brazil and Serbia in 2013, the only other occasions they were taken the distance in Davis Cup.
"We’d lost a couple of heartbreakers," Mike Bryan said, "and we said to each other, ‘Let’s erase that pain."’
It may have only delayed the inevitable for the U.S. team, though.
Britain remains the big favourite to advance to a quarterfinal against France because Andy Murray, the former Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion, is playing John Isner in the first of Sunday’s reverse singles. Isner lost a grueling five-setter against James Ward that lasted almost five hours on Friday, hurting him mentally and physically.
"I don’t think Isner will be back-flipping out of bed to play Andy tomorrow," said Jamie Murray, the older brother of Andy.
The tie is following a similar course to last year’s, which Britain won 3-1 in San Diego after winning both of the Friday singles and losing the doubles.
The U.S. has been 2-0 down on 40 occasions in Davis Cup play, and has come back to win only once — in 1934 against Australia in London. Britain has never lost from 2-0 ahead.
The Bryans dropped their rackets to the ground and did their trademark chest-bump after Mike served out for the match, which lasted 3 hours, 39 minutes at Emirates Arena.
"It’s the biggest luxury a captain can have," U.S. captain Jim Courier said of the twins. "It’s a virtual guaranteed point."
It was closer than expected.
Murray and Inglot play with different partners away from the Davis Cup — the only times they teamed up previously was for three ITF junior events in 2002-03 — and the right hand-left hand combination took time to get used to each other’s style.
Murray struggled with his serve early on and his first four service games were broken, ultimately costing Britain the first two sets. Inglot, for his part, said he was too fired up after the national anthems and missed some easy volleys.
Perhaps taking inspiration from Ward’s revival the previous evening, Murray and Inglot stepped up their intensity, and Murray’s serving improved markedly. Mike Bryan was broken in the fourth game of the third set as the Britons made the set score 2-1, then they clinched a tense tiebreaker on a Murray backhand volley in the fourth.
The home crowd got louder. An animated Andy Murray was unable to stay sitting on the sideline.
"It was pretty obvious to me that we are a tighter team than the Americans," Jamie Murray said.
The fifth set went with serve until the Bryans went after Murray’s serve in the 15th game, although it was Inglot who made the errors this time — four times at the net.