Jonas & Max won 5-7, 7-5, 6-2
Bjorkman-Mirnyi Save Match Point, Move into Doubles Final
by Brian Cleary
Thursday, September 8, 2005
When 6-foot-5 Max Mirnyi is serving at 130 mph, and Jonas Bjorkman, one the best volleyers in the game, is already at net, waiting to pounce on your returns, the Mirnyi-Bjorkman doubles team, seeded No. 1 here at the Open, can look highly intimidating. But Thursday, it was a more subtle quality to the team’s game, namely Bjorkman’s return of serve, that their opponents, Wayne Black and Kevin Ullyett, will be talking about for some time.
Bjorkman and Mirnyi were down a match point at 4-5 in the second set with Ullyett serving when Bjorkman hit a stunning inside out forehand return-of-serve winner off a first serve. After going on to break Ullyett’s serve, Bjorkman-Mirnyi broke again in the 12th game, off another Bjorkman forehand return of serve winner. Then in the third set on match point for Bjorkman-Mirnyi, on Ullyett’s serve, it was, appropriately enough, another Bjorkman return of serve clean winner that won the match.
Bjorkman and Mirnyi move into the finals, where they will take on the No. 2 seeds, Mike and Bob Bryan. There’s a lot of history between these two teams. The Bryans hold a 3-1 edge in matches this year, but Bjorkman and Mirnyi won when the two teams met in the final of the French Open. Bjorkman and Mirnyi also hold the top two spots in the doubles rankings, right ahead of the Bryan brothers.
For the first 11 games of this semifinal on Arthur Ashe stadium, it had been a clinic on how to hold serve, with neither team even facing a break point. In fact, there were only a combined eight break point opportunities in the entire match for both teams. But Black and Ullyett only needed one in the first set, breaking Bjorkman’s serve in the 11th game and going on to take the first set, 7-5.
As if to prove that they could also overcome the bigger-serving member of the team, Black and Ullyett broke Mirnyi in the 10th game to go up 5-4. But after Bjorkman’s return of serve winner at match point, Black and Ullyett wouldn’t see another opening. Bjorkman and Mirnyi went on to break Ullyett on their first break point of the match, to pull even at 5-5, and broke Black as well to win the set 7-5.
In the third set, Bjorkman and Mirnyi again broke both Black and Ullyett once each to take the final set 6-2.
The men’s final, to be played on Friday with the winning team taking home $400,000, will feature the game’s two hottest doubles teams. Bjorkman will be the most experienced player out on court. He has won 42 men’s doubles titles in his career, including 10 Grand Slams. Mirnyi has 24 career doubles titles, including four Grand Slams. Mike and Bob Bryan, who have won 26 and 24 career doubles titles, respectively, have won one Grand Slam together, the French Open title in 2003. Also, in the 2003 US Open doubles final, Bjorkman, playing then with Todd Woodbridge, beat the Bryan brothers.