Raven and Michael beaten by Mike and Jack


The crowd was slightly dazed by it all. Ever since the gentlemen’s singles semi-finals started on Friday the 13th, it had all been going haywire. Matches were coming at them from all sides. It was all too much for a fan of a certain age.
Some matches went on for hours, some matches were split over two days; the schedule simply did not look its usual, neat and tidy self by the second Saturday.
Those lucky souls with Centre Court tickets on Day 12 had almost two and half hours of the gentlemen’s singles semi-finals (Novak Djokovic won that 10-8 in the fifth), just over an hour of the ladies’ singles final (Angelique Kerber won that in straight sets) but wait, now the court was full of people again, four of them to be precise.
Stupefied with a surfeit of excellence, some of the onlookers thought that maybe they were playing two matches at once just to get everything finished on time. After all, it couldn’t be the gentlemen’s doubles final because that chap there is Mike Bryan and yet there is no sign of his twin brother Bob.
Ah, but it was Mike and this was the final. Bob, alas, was on sick leave and was back at home nursing a sore hip. Instead of his big serving brother, Mike was playing with Jack Sock. Then again, this was not your straightforward scratch pairing, the “you busy this week? Fancy a bit of doubles?” sort of arrangement. This double act was not only new but it was deadly serious.
For all that they seemed to be having a lot of fun out there, Bryan and Sock were tracking down the trophy and after three hours and 39 minutes they got it, beating Raven Klaasen from South Africa and Michael Venus of New Zealand 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-3, 5-7, 7-5.
“This is really special,” Mike said. “This is the biggest tournament in the world. We signed up to play a few weeks ago. Obviously my brother’s been hurt, he’s been supportive at home and I want to dedicate this title to him because I’m sure he’s watching at home right now on TV.
“I want also to dedicate to my grandpa who passed away a few days ago and to my mom who has an eye infection. So a lot of reasons to play well here. I want to thank Jack for stepping up and playing great all week. We battled a lot of adversity – two match points in the third round – and we just kept fighting today.”
Mike is, as everyone knows, one of the greatest doubles players in the business and, partnering Bob, has won 16 Grand Slam titles, three of them won in SW19. But Sock is also a former Wimbledon champion – in 2014, he and Vasek Pospisil lifted the silverware on Centre Court.
Bryan No.1 at 40
Add to that the fact that Mike had a goal to achieve over the course of the Fortnight and the six matches took on a new importance. By reaching the final, our hero had climbed back to the top of the doubles rankings, his first spell back at No.1 since 2015. And that is pretty impressive for a chap who is 40 years and 76 days old. Particularly as he was doing it twinless. (Bob Tweeted his congrats a couple of days ago to his “older” brother. Bob is the younger by only two minutes but these things matter once you hit 40.)
Secretly, some of us in the press bunker were rather pleased that Mike was going it alone. Not that anyone wishes Bob any harm, it is just that they are almost identical twins which makes identifying one from the other a little tricky.
We used to use the “Mike-mole; Bob-beads” method in the early days (Bob had a bead necklace and Mike had a mole) but it became a little embarrassing after a while. You try having an in-depth conversation with someone you barely know while peering under their shirt collar or scouring their face for distinguishing features.
Of course, Bob is the lefty, Mike is the righty. But, again, that has its problems. When a large, tanned chap in a baseball cap whizzes across your field of vision in pursuit of a winner, it takes great presence of mind to remember which hand is attached to his racket.
Anyway, in the final, Mike was easy to identify because he was wearing a cap and Sock was the one with the beard. And as a team, they were simple to spot because they were winning, albeit slowly.
Klaasen and Venus were not to be intimidated by the pedigree of their rivals nor were they planning on going anywhere in the immediate future. No matter that they were given a bit of a bossing about in the first set and, indeed, in the third; they were resolutely, steadfastly and cussedly hanging in there.
As seems to be the way of things in the gentlemen’s events this year, five sets was always on the cards and, sure enough, we got a decider but only after a brief delay to close the roof and turn on the lights.
By this point, it was Klaasen and Venus who were hoisting themselves into the driving seat. Serving first in the fifth set, they had that little bit of breathing space and as they applied pressure to the American’s serve, they were creating openings and chances. Not many, mind you, but just enough to threaten to swing the momentum in their favour.
The American team, though, were not to be stopped. They broke for 6-5 and then it was left to Mike, the new world No.1 to serve it out.
His 17th major trophy safely tucked in his racket bag, Mike has a lot of thinking to do before he comes back to SW19: does he fire his brother and stick with his Wimbledon champion of a partner to defend his title or does he break up a winning partnership to keep his brother in gainful employ. Decisions, decisions.