FLUSHING MEADOWS, Queens — When the Bryan brothers took the court at the National Tennis Center Monday, a raucous crowd was eager to see an American team advance to the quarter-finals in Men’s doubles on this very American holiday, Labor Day.
Bob and Mike Bryan, identical twin brothers born two minutes apart, did not disappoint — and it turned out the Grandstand Stadium would be the venue of the day because of the match that would follow.
The Bryans, ranked 5th seed in the 2017 U.S. Open, dropped the first set (4-6) to their opponents, 9th seeded Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic.
After a wardrobe change, with the brothers returning for the second set wearing matching white shirts with red stripes, their tennis went better.
The Bryans credited the crowd with helping them turn things around.
“It was just pro Bryans the whole way,” Bob Bryan, the left handed brother, remarked later.
Mike Bryan recalled matches in other venues where catcalls threw off their game.
“It only takes one guy to say something about your mom,” Mike Bryan joked. “Just one guy can ruin your day.”
But Monday in Queens was a good day.
With a higher percentage of successful first serves and deft net play, the Bryans rallied to take the second set, 6-3, and the final set, 6-4 — securing a spot in the men’s doubles quarter finals.
Although they’re the most successful doubles team of all time — with 16 Grand Slam titles and an Olympic Gold Medal to boast of — they’re still working to stay in the game.
Once ranked world number one for a record 139 consecutive weeks, the brothers said their 5th seed ranking made the expectations a little lower for them this year.
“At 39, we’re still trying to improve.”
Once the Bryan brothers departed Grandstand, the stadium filled with exuberant Argentine fans, who were eager to see their countryman, 6-foot, 6 Juan Martin del Potro, advance to the quarter finals in men’s singles. Del Porto was the 2009 U.S. Open champion, defeating Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals and Roger Federer in the final.
What the 24th seeded del Potro did Monday may surpass that feat.
Spectators watching his first two sets against 6th seeded Dominic Thiem saw an athlete who seemed to be very off his game, making multiple unforced errors and not showing much power in his strokes. Thiem, of Austria, crushed del Potro in the initial sets, 1-6; 2-6.
The crowd learned del Potro had been battling a virus the past, 2 days and now he was fighting to stay in the U.S. Open.
With the Argentine fans literally willing him to victory, del Potro staged a stunning comeback in the match, taking the third set 6-1. He won a 4th set tie break, 7-6, and then the match came down to the deciding 5th set.
Del Potro got up 5-4 in the match and then Thiem was serving, hoping to tie it up. The Argentine had one match point opportunity that ended up in the net and then he fought his way to another match point.
Thiem double-faulted on the serve and del Potro was the victor, throwing his arms up in the air and exulting in the center of the court, his adrenaline rush overtaking his exhaustion.
“You got me through,” del Potro told the crowd.
Now he needs to rest up big time.
Del Potro will face 19-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer in the quarter final Wednesday.