WIMBLEDON – North America had its fair share of representation on the final weekend at Wimbledon. But most of it came from Canada.
Not all of it, though.
For one thing, the two boys in the junior final are both from the U.S.
And then there's Jack Sock.
Sock, who won an unexpected mixed-doubles title with Melanie Oudin at the U.S. Open in 2011 as an 18-year-old, pulled off something even more spectacular Saturday as he teamed with Canadian Vasek Pospisil (yes, another Canadian) to upset the mighty Bryan brothers 7-6(5), 6-7(3), 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in the men's doubles final.
Sock and Pospisil were a welcome breath of fresh air on the men's side, where the singles champions tend to be from the established old guard, and the doubles winners tend to be veterans in their 30s (sometimes even 40s).
Sock is just 21, Pospisil just turned 24. And they almost evoked the Bryans of a decade or more ago, with their ebullient on-court demeanour and devil-may-care, nothing-to-lose attitude.
The atmosphere on Centre Court, after blowouts in the women's singles and doubles finals, was just as fresh. By the fifth set, the powers-that-be who decide these things declared "open court", meaning anyone who was on the grounds could just walk into the cathedral of tennis.
They came streaming in - many of them for the first time, many probably thinking it was an opportunity they would never have. Some were in awe, and all of them wanted to maximize the moment. Every time the players return to the court after changeovers, they were accompanied by deafening applause.
The Pospisil-Sock pair, unseeded and a first-time team, almost didn't make it at all. Sock needed a top-50 player to team up with if he wanted to make the cut in the main draw. At the deadline, he messaged Pospisil, who had been struggling with back woes all season to that point.
Pospisil said yes, but warned Sock there was a 60-to-70 percent chance he would have to bail out on him. He joked later that Sock obviously hadn't gotten a better offer, so he took the chance.
But by the time Wimbledon rolled around, Pospisil had had pain-free couple of weeks, even though he lost in the first round of singles at the No. 31 seed. And then the two got on a roll.
They beat the No 8 seeds, Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Qureshi, in five sets over several rain-delayed days. They made the No. 5 seeds, reigning U.S. Open champions Leander Paes (41) and Radek Stepanek (35), look positively ordinary and lifeless in a straight-sets win in the semi-finals. They also upset the No. 2 seeds, Bruno Soares and Alexander Peya, in four sets along the way.
Then came the big test, against the Bryans, who have 98 career Tour titles together, 15 of them Grand Slam titles. And everything was going their way; the rain that began right after the end of the women's singles final closed the roof. And it remained so, turning their big serves, as Mike Bryan put it, from "great to really awesome."
After four match points saved by some veteran clutch serving by the twins, they finally ended it when the 1,245th crushed forehand of the tournament from Sock went for a winner. (That's an estimate; there might have been even more).
"Our road here was pretty crazy ... I think before if we had known that was our path, I don't know how certain we'd be that we'd be sitting here right now. We gelled really well together, clicked well at the right times, and were able to come out on top at the end of the two weeks," Sock said. "I've played Bob and Mike a few times now. We were never able to beat them. To be able to do it on Centre Court at Wimbledon, it was a surreal moment out there."
The Bryans, disappointed, said these types of defeats are a little easier to take when you already have a few Wimbledon trophies in your case. But, as usual, they were honest and perceptive in their assessment of the situation.
Now 36, they've come up against every kind of doubles pairing there is by now. And they knew to be wary of Pospisil and Sock – not just because of the teams they defeated to get to the final, but the very nature of their pairing.
"That happens a lot. The honeymoon period is sometimes, you know, tough to stop. We faced it many times. Guys playing together the first time are really excited. They have great runs. Everything is fresh and new," Bob Bryan said. "They haven't seen the strings of the puppet show," Mike Bryan said.
"You can lose a few matches with a partner and there's a little bit of doubt that creeps in. It was just a bundle of positive energy the whole way. They've never lost a match together," Bob Bryan said. "We've played as the front-runner or the favorite for the last 10, 11 years of our career, 12 years. We've gotten pretty used to that feeling. We know how to combat those free-wheelers. Just weren't able to stop it today."
Pospisil and Sock were like a comedy duo during their giddy press conference.
Some of the best exchanges:
Q. What was the best part of today?
VASEK POSPISIL: The best part of today was not having to hit anything on match point, just watch that ball go in the court. Seeing Jack run around that forehand and crush it down the line.
That was probably the best part of the match.
JACK SOCK: I would have to agree.
Q. What was your game plan?
JACK SOCK: The game plan?
VASEK POSPISIL: Close your eyes; hope you play the best tennis of your life.
Q. Have you planned on entering a few more events before (the World Tour Finals, which they will likely be eligible for)?
VASEK POSPISIL: I don't think so.
JACK SOCK: No, we're going to play again.
VASEK POSPISIL: I'm not going to play any more (laughter).