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(photo credit: AP)
Andy Ram's successful doubles partnership with Max Mirnyi ended on a sour note on Sunday when the Israeli/Belarusian duo lost 7-6 (5), 6-3 to Bob and Mike Bryan in the final of the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals.
In the absence of the injured Yoni Erlich, Ram teamed up with Miryni in 15 tournaments this year.
The duo clicked from the first moment, reaching three ATP World Tour Masters finals and eventually advancing to the prestigious World Tour Finals as one of the top-eight teams in the world.
Ram and Mirnyi were superb all week long in London, but came up just short in a tight first set on Sunday, and were never going to win after being broken in the eighth game of the second set.
"It's very disappointing," said Ram, who will open 2010 with Frenchman Michael Llodra after Minryi decided to scale down his schedule to spend more time with his family.
"To get to the Finals and lose in the final, it's tough. Especially when we play the Bryans. We like playing against them, we beat them three times this year, once this tournament.
Analyzing the match, Ram said he and Mirnyi lacked energy.
"We feel like we have the right game to beat them," he said.
"Well, also today we showed that we had few chances, few break points. We didn't convert them. Then in the tie-break, one point here and there. Close match. I guess they needed it more, and they showed it in the second set. They were much more energetic. They pushed themselves to No. 1."
The Bryans reclaimed the year-end No. 1 doubles ranking with Sunday's victory.
It is the third time the American brothers have won the tournament and the fifth time they will end the year as the top-ranked doubles team.
"It means so much," Bob Bryan said. "It's pretty much what we play for now. I mean, that's the goal. Play well in the slams, but the ultimate goal is to finish No. 1."
The twins got the only break of the final to go up 5-3 in the second set and Bob Bryan then served out the match at love at London's O2 Arena.
He fell to his knees in celebration before getting up to catch his brother as Mike jumped into his arms.
The Bryan brothers lost last year's final to Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic, a result that dropped them to No. 2 in the rankings behind the Canadian and Serb. Nestor and Zimonjic entered the ATP finals as No. 1 but were eliminated in the round-robin phase.
"We felt like it was stolen from us last year," Bob Bryan said. "Now we kind of crept up on those guys and stole it from them this year. We feel like it's a little bit of a payback."
Mirnyi and Ram beat the twins in the round-robin phase of the tournament, but couldn't repeat the feat in the final.
"Maybe when he catches up to me with the amount of kids in the family and starts his business, we'll get back together again," Mirnyi said after playing with Ram for the last time.
The Bryan brothers wasted four break points in the first set, taking a 40-0 lead in the seventh game.
But Mirnyi and Ram held on and won the next four points - the point after deuce decides the games - to even the score at 4-4.
In the tiebreaker, Mirnyi and Ram took a 5-4 lead with a service winner from the tall Belarusian, but the Americans won the next three points to claim the first set.
"Max returned great, Andy played awesome," Mike Bryan said.
"It made for some great rallies out there. Feel fortunate to come out on top. They're a great team. It's a shame they're splitting up next year. But all credit to them, they had a great year."
AP contributed to this report.