(Reuters) – Mike Bryan used all his experience as the world No.1 doubles player at the age of 40 to prevail in an epic five-set rubber alongside Ryan Harrison on Saturday and help the United States cling on to their Davis Cup dream in Croatia.
Tennis – Davis Cup – World Group Semi-Final – Croatia v United States – Sportski centar Visnjik, Zadar, Croatia – September 15, 2018 Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison of the U.S. celebrate after their match against Croatia’s Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic REUTERS/Antonio Bronic
The U.S. had to win to keep their World Group semi-final tie alive in Zadar after Croatia had won the opening two singles rubbers on Friday and the 22-time Grand Slam winner Bryan, who came out of Davis Cup retirement for the tie, delivered.
He defied his 40 years over four hours 43 minutes of grueling combat, teaming up with Harrison for a 7-5 7-6(6) 1-6 6-7(5) 7-6(5) victory over Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic.
In a dramatic contest on an outdoor clay court in the Dalmatian resort and in the teeth of a noisy home crowd, the U.S. pair, who looked as if they might wilt as a two-set lead disappeared, finally prevailed in a fifth set tiebreak.
The win ensured the tie would go into the final day with the Croats still strong favorites to make their second final in three years as their powerful singles players Marin Cilic and Borna Coric hunt their second wins of the tie.
Croatia’s world No.6 Cilic will face Steve Johnson in the duel between the side’s two top players while Coric, who defeated Johnson in the opening rubber, tackles debutant Frances Tiafoe, who also lost to Cilic on Friday in straight sets.
In November’s final, the winners will face champions France, who completed a 3-0 win over Spain in Lille on Saturday.