Bob Bryan is a proud doubles practitioner. He is also mighty good at it. Having won the mixed doubles and men's doubles titles he will come out of this US Open as the most decorated player. But, on Friday morning, when he won his third US Open title with his twin Mike, Bob was ready to play second fiddle to their vanquished opponents: Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Qureshi.
"What they are doing is a lot more important than winning the US Open," said Bob of the duo, who in their own little way were able to bring India and Pakistan closer.
Already carrying the sole hopes of their respective nations in the competition, though, the effort seems magnified when they shoulder the responsibility together. Initially the duo shrugged off their partnership as a professional deal between two "good friends." Now, they have come to accept, and revel in its significance.
Rather than a distraction, this added dimension seems to have strengthened them as a team. Coming off a good run this summer: they made it to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and have beaten some of the top teams, they are already looking at a top-10 spot in the doubles rankings. And possibly a berth in the ATP tour finals in London, which is an exclusive affair between the top eight teams on the leaderboard.
"I wouldn't say that we are up there to the top quickly," said Bopanna. "We have been grinding around in the challengers for years. We have been playing week in, week out. We knew we had to do it in the Grand Slams to move up in the rankings."
"From the start of the year, we both spoke to each other, and we said, You know, there's no reason we can't be top 20 at the end of the year, and to make it to the Masters, as well. I think we on the right track," added Qureshi.
They are playing with more purpose and greater confidence, and those qualities were on show when they faced the Bryans. Bopanna-Qureshi dug in, refused to be swept by the enthusiasm and power of the best doubles team in the world. In the heart of New York, it was Bopanna and Qureshi who were the darlings of the crowd. The Indians and Pakistanis filled up the stands (Bob Bryan joked that, "I could see a bunch of Indians and Pakistanis out there at 10:15 a.m. when we were warming up.") and some of the Americans flirted with the idea of rooting for the Indo-Pak express.
In the end, it was two close tie-breakers that kept them away from the dream finish.
"I would say the prize money or the points didn't matter to me these two weeks," said Qureshi.
"My only motivation behind all my wins, and trying to fight out all of the matches, was to give some good news back home. Obviously we would have loved to win the match. But to me, winning and losing is a different matter. I know Rohan and I gave 100 per cent. So we can easily have pleasant dreams tonight," added Qureshi.
This US Open dream has ended, but the journey has just begun.