Notes: Bryan brothers switch to survive at US Open

NEW YORK — Yes, even Bob and Mike Bryan hit the panic button every now and then.

Facing an opponent who knows them as well as anyone, the identical twins switched sides for their serve returns in the second set of their third-round US Open match Sunday.

That switch, described as ‘‘desperate’’ by both brothers, triggered a comeback that kept alive their hopes of becoming the first men’s doubles team to capture the calendar Grand Slam in 62 years.


It’s a move that, for a veteran doubles team, would be akin to an NFL offense scrapping the passing game and running the option after halftime. Yes, it can be done, but it certainly isn’t something they practice.

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‘‘It’s a pretty big deal, because you never practice the other way,’’ Mike Bryan said after the 6-7 (1-7), 7-5, 6-2 victory over Vasek Pospisil and veteran doubles player Daniel Nestor. ‘‘But when you’re desperate, you kind of have nothing to lose, just because we didn’t have much hope the other way.’’

With Mike, the righthander, returning from the deuce side and Bob, the lefty, in the ad court, the Bryans were down a break at 4-3 in the second set before they finally got through to Nestor’s serve. It was the first of four straight times the 40-year-old, eight-time major titlist lost serve.

Asked if the switch flustered him, Nestor said, ‘‘Maybe, a little bit. Probably could’ve mixed it up a little more.”

The third set felt much more routine for the Bryans, as did the finish, which they celebrated with their trademark chest-bump: The ‘‘Bryan Bump.’’


The Bryans won their 27th straight Grand Slam match, dating to the start of last year’s US Open. They need three more victories to become only the second men’s doubles team to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in the same year. The Australian duo of Ken McGregor and Frank Sedgman did it in 1951.

‘‘To be honest, it’s really on our minds,’’ Bob Bryan said.

Indeed, they are in virtually uncharted territory, which pretty much mirrored their decision to flip-flop in the second set so both players would be playing with their backhands down the middle. Despite that, the brothers did remember doing it at the 2010 Australian Open final against Nestor. They won in three sets.

‘‘It ended up working out, but, yeah, it was just a desperate call,’’ Bob Bryan said. ‘‘I mean, we were feeling a little bit hopeless on the return games, and throwing in a switch like that sometimes is a psychological advantage.’’

According to the ATP website, this was Nestor’s 51st meeting against the Bryans, dating to 1997, and is 24-27 against what is regarded as the most successful team of all time. The Bryans have won 15 Grand Slam titles and will close out this season ranked No. 1 for a record ninth time.

Turn back the clock


Lleyton Hewitt, the 2001 US Open champ, returned to the round of 16 for the first time since 2006. At age 32, the Australian is back from years of injuries to make another run. He beat 102d-ranked Evgeny Donskoy, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-1.

Hewitt, a former No. 1, is a win away from making his first Grand Slam quarterfinal since Wimbledon in 2009.

Hewitt, who had fusion surgery on his left toe last year, has shot up from 233d to 66th since his latest comeback. His victory over Donskoy came two days after Hewitt beat 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro in a five-setter than lasted more than four hours.