Photo: Eisele/Giubilo/ZimmerBob and Mike Bryan (USA)
LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN: Bob and Mike Bryan defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Michael Llodra in straight sets in their gold medal match to be crowned Olympic champions at last.
The top-ranked pair were too accomplished as they beat the French duo 64 76(2) in 1 hour 28 minutes, and completed a Golden Slam in doubles on the same day that compatriot Serena Williams achieved hers in singles.
Mike and Bob Bryan were overjoyed to claim the one major title missing from their career, having accumulated 11 titles across all four majors, and helped USA to win the Davis Cup trophy in 2007. They won bronze in Beijing four years ago, defeating Arnaud Clement and today’s opponent Llodra in the bronze medal play-off, but it was never going to be enough for such a high-achieving partnership and today’s triumph fulfils a much-cherished dream for the identical twins from California.
On a great day for USA, the Bryans are the first American men’s doubles pair to win Olympic gold since Ken Flach and Robert Seguso in Seoul in 1988. They said they drew inspiration from Serena Williams’s focus and intensity in winning her gold medal just before them, and took the same attitude into their match.
“This kind of eclipses any of our wins,” said Mike Bryan. “There hasn't been a more special feeling than this.” Bob continued, “We've won a lot of Slams. Slams are awesome. I can tell you there's no better feeling than this right now. Winning for each other, for our team, but for our country. It brought a different level of intensity to our tennis this week.”
“We were scraping and clawing on every point. To hear the national anthem and stand on top of the podium, we could shut our careers down today and be happy for the rest of our lives,” said Bob Bryan.
The Americans attacked Tsonga’s serve in the opening game, and got the break immediately. After that neither team was much threatened until the marathon eighth game when, with the Bryans leading 4-3, the French pair had six opportunities to break Mike Bryan’s serve but just couldn’t get the better of the US twins, whose superior net play and greater experience was starting to tell. Bob Bryan served out the set in 40 minutes.
Tsonga and Llodra dug in more in the second set and resisted a break point on Llodra’s serve at 30-40 in the fifth game, raising the hopes of the French supporters on Centre Court who cheered on their team with cries of “Allez les Bleus”. Tsonga and Llodra had the advantage of serving first but it didn’t intimidate Mike Bryan, who held his serve to love at 5-6 to force the tiebreak.
The French couldn’t take the match into a third set though as Tsonga lost both his serves in the breaker, the second on a double fault, to slip behind 4-1. It was a Tsonga error that brought up match point for the Americans: in an incredible point which saw the French retrieve a high-bouncing lob and keep it in play, it was Llodra who faltered, snatching at a volley which found the net to hand victory to their opponents.
“When we didn't win the gold (in Beijing), if we could drop a pin on the calendar, you know, a place to peak, it would be here, and we did it,” said Bob Bryan. The 34-year-old twins haven’t finished yet though, saying that they plan to play Rio in 2016 then retire.
The result ended the dream run of No. 2 seeds Tsonga and Llodra, who were playing just their fourth tournament together outside Davis Cup. But as silver medallists they enjoyed a double celebration on the podium with countrymen Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet, who had earlier taken the bronze medal. It was the first time France had won a medal in tennis since Amelie Mauresmo claimed the silver in Athens in 2004, and the first time any all-French doubles pairing had won a medal since Paris 1924.
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