Playing with exuberance and commanding the center of the court from the first ball, the twins kept flickering American hopes alive in dispatching Colin Fleming and Dominic Inglot, 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, to cut Great Britain's lead to 2-1 in the best-of-five match World Group tie.
The Bryans grew up in Camarillo, California, the strawberry capital of the country, and took the court eager to eradicate the bad taste of successive losses on home soil. They force-fed Davis Cup debutant Inglot a series of vicious volleys. The 27-year-old Inglot, who replaced Murray as the doubles starter, was playing alongside Fleming for the first time since their junior days and while the British pair struggled to sort out coverage and communication issues, the Americans pounced. A tight Inglot, whose serve is his most lethal weapon, opened with a pair of nervous double faults, then netted an awkward smash near the doubles alley as the twins broke for a 2-0 lead. Fleming double faulted on set point to donate a second break as the Bryans rolled through the first set in 24 minutes.
Springing to his left, Bob Bryan smacked a full-stretch volley off Inglot's chest to give the twins double break point in the eighth game of the second set. Stepping into a Fleming second serve, Bob belted a forehand return at Inglot's feet, eliciting a volley error as the brothers bounced in unison taking the break and a 5-3 lead. Closing with confidence, Bob pounded an ace out wide as the American pair seized a two-set lead after just 56 minutes of play.
With left-hander Bob playing the deuce side and righty Mike on the ad side, the British duo tried to stretch the twins with the kick serves to the Americans' one-handed backhands, but both brothers struck their backhand returns down the line at times to punish poachers.
In the third set, Inglot tattooed a volley that rattled Bob Bryan's rib cage to give the Brits their lone break point of the day. Fleming, whose finesse presents a tricky contrast to his partner's firepower, laced a backhand return winner down the line giving GB its first break and a 4-2 third-set lead. The 6'5" Inglot combines the brawny shoulders of a bouncer with the explosiveness (and feel) of a demolition expert. He buzzed successive aces to seal the third set, but frequently shanked returns off his Babolat frame.
Shrugging off that stumble, the former Stanford all Americans struck quickly, exploiting a pair of Fleming forehand volley errors to break Inglot's serve for a 2-0 fourth-set lead. The Bryans backed up the break at 15 for 3-0 lead and never looked back, sealing the victory with a Bob Bryan smash punctuated by their signature flying chest bump. They landed to blustering cheers and a harsh reality.
History shows the odds of an American comeback are longer than the prospect of the Bryan brothers band replacing the Red Hot Chili Peppers as part of the Super Bowl halftime show: When facing an 0-2 deficit in Davis Cup, the U.S. holds a 1-38 record with its lone victory coming way back in 1934. American hopes now rest on Sam Querrey's shoulders as he faces Wimbledon winner Murray in Sunday's first reverse singles. Not only does Querrey carry the collateral damage of a stunning collapse that saw him lose 10 of the last 11 games against the 175th-ranked Ward, he confronts a bleak history with Murray, who is 5-1 lifetime against the American and riding a 17-match Davis Cup winning streak. If Querrey, who was smiling and supportive of the Bryans on the team bench today, can somehow scrape himself together—and pull off a massive upset to level the tie—Ward is scheduled to face Donald Young in the fifth rubber.