Men’s and women’s singles are the money winners for Grand Slams because of viewership numbers and the rights fees they justify. However, doubles remains the more popular category for “club players,” the folks who really rule the tennis industry’s bottom line.
Saturday we found out why, when Mike Bryan and Jack Sock won the men’s doubles final at Wimbledon, defeating Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus, 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-3, 5-7, 7-5.
The match featured power, spin, wild overhead smashes, a shot that curved around the net post, and feathery angled volleys that brought a hush over the crowds. Jack Sock was more like Jumpin’ Jack Sock as he ran up and back, left and right, trying to cover every inch of Centre Court in order to get that one last crucial ball back over the net while Mike Bryan, the much more seasoned doubles man, steadied the team as they progressed through the five entertaining sets.
For Mike Bryan, the win put him shoulder to shoulder with John Newcombe for the all-time lead in men’s Grand Slam doubles titles: 17. However the realization must have tasted bittersweet to an extent. His twin brother, Bob, was not with him. He was home nursing a hip injury that sidelined him in Madrid. This was the first major Mike has won without Bob. Nonetheless, the title was Mike’s fourth at Wimbledon. The last time he hoisted the trophy was with Bob in 2013.
Earlier in the week, Mike became the oldest player to reach the number one ranking in doubles.
“Huge congrats to Mike Bryan for reclaiming the world #1 ranking!”, Sock wrote on Instagram. “It’s a pleasure sharing the court with one of the greatest of all time. We are gonna keep it rolling for you Bob!”
“Mike has won a ridiculous amount of titles, most of them with his brother, though, so it’s a different combination,” Venus told Stuff. “But Jack is a very good doubles player himself. He knows what he’s doing.”
“Jack Sock and anybody is the best doubles team because they fear his forehand,” Brad Gilbert said, calling the men’s doubles final on ESPN.
Sock won men’s doubles at Wimbledon alongside first-time partner Vasek Pospisil in 2014. Oddly enough they beat the Bryan brothers. With Sock’s singles career taking a nosedive of late — he lost in the first round of Wimbledon to Matteo Berrenttini after having a two-sets-to-one lead and is 5-14 for the season — the smile and energy from the American had to have been an uplifting experience.
Earlier this season Sock won doubles titles in Nice with Nick Kyrgios, Delray Beach with Jackson Withrow, and Indian Wells with John Isner.
Mike and Jack’s partnership was in its infancy when they entered The Championships. Seeded number seven, they had won only one round at Queen’s Club, a precursor grass tournament held in London.
Their opponents on Saturday, though seeded number 13, were as polished as the trophies handed out after the match.
This was Venus’s third Grand Slam final in 13 months. He won Roland Garros in 2017 with Ryan Harrison and was a finalist in mixed doubles at the U.S. Open. He was also a three-time All-American in college. His partnership with Klaasen began in January.
Venus credits Klaasen with “great hands, athleticism, fast feet and solid returns.” Power is Venus’s contribution, which was in ample view in Saturday’s match.
“You come to Wimbledon every year and hope to do well and prepare yourself to get to this stage in the tournament, and then to do a step better than my last semifinal [in 2016] showing here is fabulous,” Klaasen said, sport24 reported.
But we have to return to Mike Bryan. Without his identical twin brother, his mirror on and off court, he had to adapt quickly to Sock. His experience led the way, as fans watched him direct Sock on almost every point. When Sock could dominate with his forehand, Mike would drop back and let Sock shine. Mike would step in for volleys, though, being the better of the two in that department.
“[I’m] completely impressed with Mike, who has adapted to a completely different type of partner,” Gilbert said, a theme he reiterated throughout the men’s doubles final.
The last point of the fourth set had to have been the most gripping. Bryan and Sock staved off three break points, one a double fault from Mike. On the fourth one Mike was called for a foot fault on his second serve. The Americans lost the game and set.
“That was a bizarre way to lose a set and get into a fifth,” Gilbert said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. It’s the same lady who called four other foot faults, two on Mike who had no other foot faults in the match.”
But they regrouped and went up a break at 6-5 in the fifth set, minutes after their opponents had missed their opportunity to grab the advantage. On Mike and Jack’s first championship point, they achieved what every other doubles team came to achieve at Wimbledon, the title.