Bob Bryan is in his 18th season with World Team Tennis.
Ajla Tomljanović has no experience whatsoever.
But in what Bryan called a do-or-die situation for the Vegas Rollers, both players came up big in Tuesday night’s 21-19 victory over the Orange County Breakers.
Tomljanović accounted for 12 of Vegas’ 21 points, while Bryan was involved in two crucial sets – one that started the match and one that finished it.
“I think we all understood the sense of urgency after slipping for two games,” Vegas coach Tim Blenkiron said. “A lot of that was out of our control, we had some injuries and that was unfortunate. I think we beat a really, really tough Orange County team.”
Especially when you consider Vegas (4-4) managed just 13 points and lost all five sets to the Breakers in the first meeting, just five days earlier.
Orange County (3-5) came in having won three of its previous four matches, but ran into an exuberant rookie in Tomljanović, and the revenge-minded Rollers, who with the win climbed into a third-place tie at the midway point of the season with the first-place Philadelphia Freedoms on deck.
Tomljanović teamed with Bryan in mixed doubles to start the match, and the two looked as if they’ve been playing together since day one.
“It was crazy, I was so excited when I got called up, I’ve never been a part of team tennis yet,” Tomljanović said. “When I saw our team I was so excited. Being first up was a little nerve wracking, but I had Bob there, so that was a really big help.
The Rollers’ mixed doubles tandem opened an early 3-0 lead before Gabriela Dabrowski and Austin Krajicek found their rhythm and joined the match by winning three of the next four games. Dabrowski had a chance to serve the Breakers into a nine-point tiebreak with the eighth game getting to a deciding point, but she double-faulted, and handed the set to Vegas.
With no time to catch her break, Tomljanović was thrust into the next set against a red-hot Jennifer Brady, who won her last two women’s singles set by a combined score of 10-1 and is 12-5 on the WTA tour in 2020.
“I knew Jenny has been playing great, I knew she’s been putting in the work and I was expecting her to come out and play really well,” Tomljanović said.
Nevertheless, the four-time WTA finalist and Brady put on a show.
The two held serve over the first four games, then broke each other over the next four games. Tomljanović caught her second wind during the tiebreak, breaking Brady’s first two serves then winning her first two to go up 4-0. Brady held to make it 4-2, but Tomljanović finished it off and took the set.
The Breakers weren’t about to buckle, though. For the second time in less than a week, Steve Johnson knocked off Sam Querrey, 5-4, in a set-tiebreak in men’s singles. Then, seizing the opportunity to steal momentum and give the Breakers a lead heading into the final set, Dabrowski and Andreja Klepac dominated Tomljanović and Monica Puig in women’s doubles, winning 5-2. The teams held serve after the first two games, but Orange County’s duo won three straight to take a commanding 4-1 lead before finishing things off.
Trailing 17-16 heading into men’s doubles, it was Bob and Mike Bryan looking for revenge against Johnson and Krajicek, who won the first meeting, 5-2. And it was apparent the world’s most successful men’s doubles team were playing with no mercy.
“We knew we had to break, our team was done one going into the last match, those guys beat us a few days ago and we were looking for some revenge,” Bob Bryan said. “Mike was sitting on the bench all night and he came out and he played amazing. He came in cold and hit some fantastic returns and then served a great last game.”
The Bryan brothers opened up a 3-0 lead in the set, making it difficult for Orange County’s tandem to get back into the set. The teams held serve over the next four games, as the Bryans won, 5-2 to seal the win.
And while Bob Bryan was named the Guaranteed Rate Player of the Match, he didn’t hesitate to deflect praise to his rookie partner from mixed doubles.
“She did amazing; She’s probably the MVP,” Bryan said of Tomljanović. “It’s nice (being named) but she played three matches, you saw how much she was sweating, she did great. I don’t know if she’s ever played team tennis before. This is completely different conditions. You got teammates, you feel a little more stress, a little more pressure and she rose to the occasion. We’re very proud of her and happy to have her on the team.”
Tomljanović, ranked 56th on the WTA tour, arrived late Monday and was brought in for Asia Muhammad, who injured her shoulder and will be out indefinitely.
Querrey, who ranks eighth-all time with 8,267 aces, tied a season-high of six aces in a men’s singles match. The 32-year-old Las Vegas resident also had six aces against Orlando and in the first meeting against Orange County.
Vegas will face the Philadelphia Freedoms on Wednesday at 7 pm ET/4 pm PT, with the match being broadcast on CBS Sports Network. The Breakers return to action on Thursday, when they’ll face the Washington Kastles at 7 pm ET/4 pm PT on ESPN2.
VEGAS ROLLERS def. Orange County Breakers 21-19
Mixed Doubles – Bob Bryan\Ajla Tomljanovic (Rollers) def. Gabriela Dabrowski\Austin Krajicek (Breakers) 5-3
Women’s Singles – Ajla Tomljanovic (Rollers) def. Jennifer Brady (Breakers) 5-4
Men’s Singles – Steve Johnson (Breakers) def. Sam Querrey (Rollers) 5-4
Women’s Doubles – Gabriela Dabrowski\Andreja Klepac (Breakers) def. Ajla Tomljanovic\Monica Puig (Rollers) 5-2
Men’s Doubles – Bob Bryan\Mike Bryan (Rollers) def. Steve Johnson\Austin Krajicek (Breakers) 5-2