Bryan brothers' pursuit of calendar Slam ends in semifinals
Bob and Mike Bryan, the exuberantly intense 35-year-old California twins, yesterday were beaten by the veteran team of Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek two matches short of sweeping the four Grand Slam doubles tournaments in a calendar year for the first time since 1951.
After sailing though the first set of the semifinal, the Bryans were overcome, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, their first loss in a major tournament since Wimbledon 2012 -- 28 matches ago.
"It's tough," Bob said. "But I haven't seen my little girl yet. Once I see her smile, I'm sure I'll let this go. It's a stinger."
"Micaela," brother Mike reassured about Bob's 19-month-old daughter, "doesn't care."
"Yeah," Bob agreed, "she doesn't care. She doesn't know what a calendar Grand Slam is yet."
Thursday's typically frenetic doubles battle, all split-second reaction and cat-like adjustments, ended with expressions of mutual respect from both sides and an appreciation of good health from Paes, a 40-year-old Indian, for his 34-year-old Czech partner, who had spinal surgery this year.
"I have tremendous respect for the boys," Paes said of the Bryans. "They are great champions, great ambassadors for the game."
Bob Bryan, meanwhile, called Paes "a legend. He's done a lot for doubles as well."
Paes, who has lived in New York City for years, recalled his first U.S. Open appearance, more than 20 years ago, playing in the junior finals. "I remember Wilt Chamberlain was watching," he said. "My father was out there. There was a packed stadium. I was a young little Indian kid from Calcutta who was trying to see whether I could still make it on the pro tour."
He remembered riding the subway to the tennis center. He remembered, after playing the mixed doubles final in the 2001 Open, being in the Twin Towers basement the night before the 9/11 attacks. "I still have a receipt from a store down there. I bought some khaki pants."
Mike acknowledged that "every point just becomes a little bit bigger'' in the Slam pursuit "and makes it a little tougher. But, you know, we're pretty fortunate to have had this opportunity. Played three matches on Arthur Ashe Stadium in a row. Played our third-round out there on TV, which doesn't happen much in doubles.
"The crowds were great. Twenty-eight matches in a row [won] in Grand Slams might not ever happen again, so we feel like we did all we can do."