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Grand Slam slips away from Bryan brothers

September 6, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — With history on the line, the Bryan brothers finally met their match.

Trying to become only the second men’s doubles team to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in a single year, Bob and Mike Bryan saw their bid end with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss to Leander Paes of India and Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic in the U.S. Open semifinals on Thursday.

“As competitors, we hate to lose and we knew what was riding on this match and the opportunity of what we could have accomplished,” Bob Bryan said. “And then 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.”

For nearly 12 months, a span that included 28 straight wins in Grand Slam matches, seemingly every bounce and every bit of luck went the Bryans’ way. It put them two wins away from joining the 1951 Aussie team of Ken McGregor and Frank Sedgman as only the second to capture the calendar Slam in men’s doubles.

But on a blustery afternoon in Arthur Ashe Stadium — their third appearance there of the tournament — the 35-year-old identical twins ran into a pair of fast-handed veterans who have never backed down from them.

This match was no different.

“You leave that door a little ajar, I will find my foot through it,” said Paes, 40, who has 13 major titles of his own, seven in men’s doubles and six more in mixed. “Once I get my foot through it, I got my body through it. Once I get my body through it, I get him through it.”

News of the result filtered over to Melbourne, where Sedgman woke up Friday morning and was greeted by a text from his daughter telling him his spot in tennis history was safe. But the 85-year-old former champion, whose doubles partner died in 2007, said there’s no denying the Bryans’ greatness.

“Obviously, they will go down as one of the best ever doubles pairings,” Sedgman said. “I really thought they had a good chance to break it.”

The Bryans remain stuck on 15 Grand Slam championships and must “settle” for the “Bryan Slam” — the four straight majors they won starting at Flushing Meadows last year, when they beat Paes and Stepanek in the final. They capped that slam, making them the first team since McGregor and Sedgman to hold all four titles at once, at Wimbledon in July.

“Then once we did that, we didn’t really get to rest on our laurels too much,” Bob Bryan said. “It’s a never-ending run of history and records and there is always something on the horizon. That’s what makes this sport so fun, is, there is always the next goal.”

The Stepanek-Paes team improved to 4-4 lifetime against the Bryans and added another chapter to a nice little story of their own. Stepanek was out of action after neck surgery this year following the Australian Open.

“When he got injured, I got lots of phone calls to play with other guys, but that’s not what you do,” Paes said. “What you do is you stand by your partner. I have tremendous belief in him, and he’s really shown that belief coming good.”

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