After seizing a 2-0 lead on Day 1 at the Davis Cup, a U.S. victory seemed assured with prolific doubles pair Bob and Mike Bryan taking the court for an afternoon match on Feb. 2.
The Bryans, winners of a record 13 Grand Slam doubles titles, lost for only the third time in 23 Davis Cup matches. Brazilians Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares staved off a late rally by the Bryans to win 7-6 (6), 6-7 (7), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
"We're obviously disappointed," Bob Bryan said. "We would have loved to get the point for the U.S. I feel like we're capable of playing at a higher level. We'll get back to work and hopefully the guys will get it done on Sunday [Feb. 3], and we'll have another opportunity to make this right [in a Davis Cup semifinal later this year]."
The Bryans squandered three set points in the first-set tiebreaker, then rallied after a challenge reversal gave them new life in the second set.
There was a verbal exchange at the end of the second set between the doubles pairs.
"Yeah, Davis Cup is an emotional atmosphere. They got passionate after they thought they won the set [before the challenge]. I got passionate to them," Bob Bryan said. "There were some words said. You know, no hard feelings, no grudges. It's Davis Cup. This sort of stuff happens all the time."
Soares joked that he wasn't involved: "Marcelo could explain better. ... He's bigger and stronger than me, so I just ran away."
"Bob never did this before," Melo said. "I have him as a friend. In that moment, I [was] in shock. ... At the same time, I want to see the video again to see if he did it to me or to the crowd. If the guy do to the crowd, [it's] OK. It's not OK, but it's not words to say to another player."
Melo and Soares responded by breaking Mike Bryan twice — in the third and fifth sets. They improved to 3-1 all-time against the Bryans, considered by many to be the best men's doubles pair in tennis history.
In the match, the Bryans and the Brazilian pair each won 159 points, but Melo and Soares won the key the points to clinch the victory. Neither pair offered a break-point opportunity in the first two sets. The Bryans had 11 combined aces to three for Melo and Soares.
Brazil cut the U.S. lead to 2-1 but must sweep the reverse singles matches on Feb. 3. John Isner is scheduled to face Thomaz Bellucci, and Sam Querrey is set to face Thiago Alves. The players each won their singles matches on Feb. 1.
U.S. captain Jim Courier said Isner "practiced well today," addressing concerns over his top player's right knee injury.
"We feel confident in our chances tomorrow," Courier said. "We don't underestimate the opposition. They gained a little bit of momentum. It will be our job to quell that tomorrow and snuff it out [on the] first ball."
If the Americans win the quarterfinal, they will face Serbia in the next round. The Serbians built an insurmountable 3-0 lead after Viktor Troicki and Nenad Zimonjic beat Belgian pair Ruben Bemelmans and Steve Darcis 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.
In another World Group doubles match Feb. 2, the Czech Republic beat Switzerland in the longest Davis Cup match ever played — 7 hours, 2 minutes — according to a USTA official. Tomas Berdych and Lukas Rosol clinched the doubles point on their 13th match point to beat Stanislas Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 24-22. The Czechs took a 2-1 lead, heading into reverse singles.
France and Argentina built insurmountable 3-0 leads over Israel and Germany, respectively. Italy and Kazakhstan hold 2-1 leads over Croatia and Austria, respectively. Canada leads Spain 2-0.