NEW YORK: Bob and Mike Bryan continued their march toward a 100th career men’s doubles title on Monday, impervious to the hand-wringing over the sad state of American men’s tennis.
Third-round exits for John Isner and Sam Querrey ended US interest in the men’s singles after only three American men out of 12 home-grown contenders had made it to the second round — a new low for the US Open.
But the hugely popular Bryan brothers said they don’t feel the burden of expectations that seemed to weigh on US number one Isner even before the tournament began.
“Luckily we don’t get a lot of that negative press,” Bob said. “A lot of our stories seem to be positive. Being the last Americans standing — it’s happened a bunch of times at Slams the last few years. It’s like ‘Hey, the Bryans are still alive, sweet’”
The brothers feel more responsibility as the face of doubles, as fewer of the top men players opt to pull double duty and perhaps jeopardize their singles campaigns.
Bob said he sympathized with the decision, especially at Grand Slam tournaments where singles matches are a potentially draining best-of-five sets.
But they’re determined to keep the doubles flag flying in the face of dwindling prize money, little television exposure and, on the ATP tour, the use of a super tiebreaker rather than a third set to determine matches which doubles purists believe diminishes their game.
“A lot of times we’re carrying the flag for doubles,” Mike said, adding that’s a responsibility they take seriously.
“We like to stand up for doubles, we like to promote it as best we can,” he said, although he noted that for all the fans who have told him “you’re my favorite doubles” team, few could name a second-favorite.
The Bryans beat another all-American duo, Bradley Klahn and Tim Smyczek, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) to reach the quarter-finals on Monday.
They pulled a packed house as they opened action on the Louis Armstrong Stadium at 11 am, although Mike conceded the Labor Day holiday and the prospect of a Novak Djokovic match to follow may have accounted for some of the buzz.
“I think Novak was playing after us — I don’t know if they were there for us or him,” he said.
They have yet to drop a set, but predicted the going would get tougher as they pursue a 16th Grand Slam title together.
That includes four US Open titles, and to reach 100 overall for their career at their home Grand Slam would particularly satisfying.
“It’s a milestone we’ve been looking at for a while, since we got to 85,” Bob said.
“We never planned on it being 99 around US Open time — gives us a little something extra to shoot for.”