Photo: Eisele/Giubilo/ZimmerBob Bryan and Mike Bryan (USA)
LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN: Their racket bags say ‘Going for gold!’ and the awesome twosome of Bob and Mike Bryan are certainly heading that way.
Having lost at this stage four years ago in Beijing, the American twins are now guaranteed a silver or gold medal in the men’s doubles after defeating Frenchmen Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet 64 64 in the semifinals on Friday.
Proud as they are of their bronze medal – won in Beijing by defeating another French pairing Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra in the bronze medal play-off – the Bryans have made much noise about what an Olympic gold medal (the one thing missing from their trophy cabinet) would mean to them. This would of course be the icing on the cake to their team record 78 titles and record-equalling 11 Grand Slam titles.
"It's all sinking in," said Bob. "We're enjoying that victory. We played good grasscourt doubles and tomorrow's going to be pretty insane. Like Mike said this could be our last shot at Olympic glory. I'm very happy that we do have a medal as semifinals is no guarantee of hardware. We're going to enjoy it for a little while and once we have opponents we will get a gameplan ready and go to war."
This match against Benneteau/Gasquet turned out to be their easiest of the event so far. In the first three rounds against Thomaz Bellucci and Andre Sa, Nikolay Davydenko and Mikhail Youzhny, and Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram, six of their seven sets played went to tiebreaks.
This time the Americans needed just one break of serve in each set to cruise into the men’s doubles final – Benneteau’s in the ninth game of the opening set, and Gasquet’s in the fifth of the second. Mike served out the victory with a match point to spare.
Then unseeded pairing of Benneteau and Gasquet had certainly made a mark at this Olympic Games. Ranked 81 and 188 in doubles respectively, and with Gasquet competing in doubles for the first ever time on the courts of Wimbledon, the two managed to knock-out the established British doubles team of Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins in the opening round, then defeated seventh and third seeds Mahesh Bhupathi/Rohan Bopanna and Janko Tipsarevic/Nenad Zimonjic to reach this stage - just like their countrymen Clement and Llodra in Beijing.
After their defeat, Benneteau reflected on the performance. "They are the best on the tour for many years now and today they played very good and very solid. They didn't play this way all week, but today they were very, very strong. We tried to find the opportunities but we couldn't and they were better than us."
France may have missed out on a guaranteed medal in the Olympic Tennis Event from this particular match, but they have a second chance when Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga take on Spain’s David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez later on Court 1. And of course Benneteau and Gasquet will be back on Saturday to contest the bronze medal play-off.
Meanwhile the Bryans can look forward to the achievement ahead of them – bringing home a medal for the second Games running, and the possibility that they could surpass Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, who won gold in Atlanta 1996, as veritably the most successful men’s doubles team of all time.
"Every sports fan in the world knows what an Olympic medal is," Mike concluded. "They don't necessarily know what a Wimbledon title is. I think that would be at the front of the trophy case for sure."
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