ZADAR, Croatia — The doubles specialist Mike Bryan’s decision to come out of Davis Cup retirement gave the United States a much-needed lift on Saturday.
Bryan teamed with Ryan Harrison for the first time and helped the Americans outlast Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic, 7-5, 7-6 (6), 1-6, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), over nearly five hours to cut Croatia’s lead to 2-1 in their semifinal.
“It’s great to win one for the country — 7-6 in the fifth, on the road and on dirt — this is right up there, and I will never forget this one,” Bryan said.
In Sunday’s reverse singles, sixth-ranked Marin Cilic will face the American Steve Johnson, and Borna Coric will meet the Davis Cup rookie Frances Tiafoe.
The winner on the outdoor clay court will meet the defending champion, France, in the final from Nov. 23 to 25. France beat Spain, 3-0, in the other semifinal.
Mike Bryan and his twin, Bob, retired from Davis Cup after the United States lost to Croatia in the 2016 quarterfinals. But Mike decided to return while enjoying a stellar season with his interim partner, Jack Sock.
Bryan and Sock won Wimbledon and the United States Open. But Sock hurt his hip during the U.S. Open run and was replaced by Harrison on the U.S. team.
While Bryan’s reflex volleys were decisive throughout the match, it was Harrison’s forehand return winner that sealed it on the Americans’ second match point — silencing a raucous crowd featuring fans banging drums and blaring trumpets.
The doubles result was welcome for a United States team that failed to win a set in the opening two singles on Friday.
The United States is missing its top two singles players — besides No. 17 Sock, No. 10 John Isner is home awaiting the birth of his child.
In Lille, France, the doubles pair Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut sealed France’s win over Spain in their semifinal, giving the defending champions an unassailable 3-0 lead. The French veterans, both 36, defeated Marcel Granollers and Feliciano López, 6-0, 6-4, 7-6 (7), on the indoor hardcourt set up inside the Pierre Mauroy soccer stadium.
France reached back-to-back finals for the first time since 2002.
Spain was without top-ranked Rafael Nadal, who was ruled out because of the right-knee injury that forced him to retire from his U.S. Open semifinal against Juan Martín del Potro last week.