Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bryans' Grand Slam bid ends; Altamirano prevails

Leander Paes practices with doubles partner Radek
Stepanek during last year's Australian Open. They
won the title, beating Bob and Mike Bryan in the
final, in only their second tournament together.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek out-Bryaned the Bryans.
   Playing brilliantly and celebrating winning points by side-stepping in unison, Paes and Stepanek ended the Bryans' quest for the Grand Slam with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory today in the men's doubles semifinals of the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   The Bryans, former Stanford stars who commemorate victories with their trademark leaping chest-bump, were trying to become the second men's doubles team in history to win all four major titles in one year.
   "As competitors we hate to lose," Bob Bryan told reporters, "and we knew what was riding on this match. In one sense, it's a little bit of a relief where you get to kind of exhale for the first time in a few months. All of this Grand Slam talk has been in the back of our head, and it's been an honor to be a part of this run with Mike. It's been a great 12 months. Those guys played a great match, and we wish them luck in the finals."
   Mike Bryan added: "We're pretty fortunate to have this opportunity. (We) played three matches in Arthur Ashe Stadium in a row. We played our third (match) out there on TV, which doesn't happen pretty much ever in doubles. The crowds were great. Twenty-eight matches in a row in Grand Slams might not ever happen again, [but] we feel like we did all we can do. Probably never going to have another shot at it."
Stepanek practices with Paes at last year's Australian
Open. Stepanek had neck disc surgery in January.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Australians Ken McGregor and Frank Sedgman won the Grand Slam 62 years ago en route to seven consecutive major titles. The Bryans, 35-year-old identical twins, had won four in a row and the gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics for a "Golden Bryan Slam." Their run began with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Paes and Stepanek in last year's U.S. Open final.
   In an all-Northern California boys singles matchup today, 17-year-old wild card Collin Altamirano outlasted unseeded Mackenzie McDonald, 18, of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals. Altamirano, who trains at Arden Hills in Sacramento and lives with his grandparents in the suburb of Elk Grove, will face top-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany.
   In girls singles, 11th-seeded Mayo Hibi, a 17-year-old Irvine resident who plays for her native Japan, crushed unseeded Katie Boulter of Great Britain 6-1, 6-0 to advance to the quarterfinals. Hibi, who won the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger in the Sacramento area in July, will meet third-seeded Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic.
   Catherine (CiCi) Bellis and Michaela Gordon -- 14-year-old wild cards who live nine miles (14 kilometers) apart in Atherton and Los Altos Hills, respectively, in the San Francisco Bay Area -- lost to seeds in the third round of girls singles. Bellis fell to second-seeded Ana Konjuh, 15, of Croatia 6-3, 6-3, and Gordon succumbed to 10th-seeded Louisa Chirico, 17, of Harrison, N.Y., 6-7 (2), 5-7, 6-2.
Mike, left, and Bob Bryan of the visiting Texas Wild and their
father, Sacramento Capitals coach Wayne Bryan, watch
players warm up before a World TeamTennis match in July.
Photo by Paul Bauman
    The top-seeded Bryans "just got outplayed today" by the fourth-seeded Paes and Stepanek, commentator Patrick McEnroe said on ESPN2's broadcast. Paes, a 40-year-old Indian, made numerous incredible shots with his lightning-quick reflexes, and Stepanek, a 34-year-old Czech, raised his game dramatically after the first set.
   When Paes hit an amazing half-volley winner serving on break point at 5-2 in the third set, commentator Brad Gilbert said, "That's magician hands." Paes ended up losing his serve, and Bob Bryan held for 4-5. But Stepanek, who won the decisive match in his country's 3-2 victory over Spain in last year's Davis Cup final, held serve at love for the match.
   Afterward, Paes lifted Stepanek, who held his arms out in triumph. When Gilbert asked Paes on the
court what winning a Grand Slam title at age 40 meant to him, Paes deflected the attention and paid tribute to everyone else.
   "I have tremendous respect for the Bryan boys," Paes said. "They're great ambassadors for American tennis. Radek is one of the best partners I've ever had. Gotham City, you're the greatest."
   Stepanek, who underwent neck disc surgery last January and missed 2 1/2 months, said the side-stepping move "came naturally. We have fun on the court. Maybe we'll do something else for the final."
   Paes and Stepanek won last year's Australian Open, beating the Bryans in the final, in only their second tournament together. Paes will seek his eighth Grand Slam men's doubles title and Stepanek his second when they meet second-seeded Alexander Peya of Austria and Bruno Soares of Brazil in Sunday's final.
   Peya and Soares defeated 10th-seeded Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Marcelo Melo of Brazil 7-5, 6-4 in the semis. Last October, Peya and Soares downed Paes and Stepanek 6-3, 7-6 (5) indoors for the Tokyo title.  

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