By Miguel Luengo.
The doubles team of Mike and Bob Bryan kept the United States' hopes alive in the Davis Cup semifinals, scoring a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory here Saturday over Spain's Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez.
The twin brothers, winners of a record 12 Grand Slam doubles titles and gold medalists at the London Olympics, overcame a strong performance by Lopez and took advantage of an injury to Granollers to snag a hard-fought victory on clay at the Parque Hermanos Castro stadium in this northwestern Spanish city.
Granollers, former world No. 5 in doubles and winners of eight doubles titles, suffered an injury to his left calf during the extremely long third game of the second set.
The Spaniards finally held serve after 15 minutes and nine break points to consolidate their break of serve in the previous game, but Granollers' ailment posed a major obstacle to the duo's chances in the match.
Julian Casanova, the Spanish team's trainer, applied a spray and a heavy bandage to Granollers' leg, but concern was written all over the faces of both the player and Spanish captain Alex Corretja.
The skipper even gave Granollers the option of retiring from the match, but he decided to soldier on.
The player's lack of mobility forced the Spanish team to alter its strategy and send Lopez crossing daringly at the net and covering all empty spaces on his side of the court.
The tactic disrupted the Americans' rhythm and the Spaniards took the second set and went up 3-1 in the fourth set, but the Americans broke back and then won the match when Lopez double-faulted on match point.
Despite the loss, the Spaniards troubled the world's top-ranked doubles team, hitting 80 winners to 35 for the Bryans.
The Americans, however, were the steadier of the two teams and limited their unforced errors to just 26, compared with 74 for the Spanish duo.
"We gave everything on the court. It's too bad about Marcel," Lopez said in an on-court interview. "Tennis wasn't fair with him today, because we felt comfortable. It's unfortunate."
Granollers, meanwhile, said it never dawned on him to quit the match.
"In Davis Cup, it never occurred to me to stop. Marc is really patient and it's thanks to him we did this match ... We played at a high level and tried until the end."
"The Bryans were better under the circumstances," Corretja said, adding that Lopez "showed why he's No. 8 in the world (in doubles)."
The Americans, meanwhile, breathed a sigh of relief after getting on the scoreboard and giving themselves a chance to steal a victory in Sunday's reverse singles.
"It's never easy to play in these conditions as the crowd is loud," Mike Bryan said. "Granollers might have hurt his calf there and we backed off the gas there a little bit. You always want to play aggressive in those situations but I'm proud of the way we picked it up at the end and played some good tennis."
Sunday's first singles match will pit David Ferrer - Spain's top player due to the absence of injured Rafael Nadal - against top American player John Isner.
If Isner pulls off the upset, the contest will come down to a battle between American Sam Querrey and Spain's Nicolas Almagro.
"Tomorrow, obviously, is a little bit different with one versus one and two versus two," U.S. captain Jim Courier said.
"Ferrer is such a warrior and a great competitor and John's going to have to play better than he did yesterday to stand a chance. He's a little bit more physically taxed than David is for sure (after a five-set loss on Friday)."
"Sam I think will have a chance. If it gets to a fifth match a lot of the pressure actually shifts in the other direction. Momentum is important and it shifts quickly in Davis Cup," Courier said.
Argentina and the Czech Republic were tied 1-1 after Friday's singles play in the other Davis Cup semifinal, which is being played on clay in Buenos Aires. EFE