Rio 2016: Day-9. Andy Murray. Gold Again

Center Court was wrapped in Gold on Sunday at the Olympic Tennis Center. A pair of Russians, Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, earned their first Olympic medals in the day’s first Gold Medal match.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jack Sock earned Gold in the All-American Mixed Doubles Final. Venus Williams picked up her 5th-career Olympic medal with she and Rajeev Ram’s Silver finish.

In the grand finale, Andy Murray earned his second-consecutive Men’s Singles Gold Medal after a four-hour battle with Juan Martin Del Potro…

MENS SINGLES GOLD MEDAL MATCH

(GBR) Andy Murray def (ARG) Juan Martin Del Potro 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5


Andy Murray is now a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist. He’s won 18 consecutive matches since falling to Novak Djokovic in the French Open Final back in June. The World #2 is now 12-1 in Olympic Men’s Singles competition, his only loss in Round-1 of the Beijing Summer Games.

Juan Martin Del Potro’s Silver Medal is a step-above his Bronze finish in London. There, he defeated Novak Djokovic – as he did in Round-1 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games just over a week ago. His run at this year’s Summer Games will be one of legend. The return from another wrist surgery 14-months prior. The first Olympic Games ever to be held in South America. His victory over the World #1 in the First Round. A remarkable win over Rafael Nadal in the Semifinals. The fan support. The outpouring of love from fellow players. That blistering forehand.

The Gold Medal match lasted 4-hours and 2-minutes. It was clear early that the best-of-five Final would be an all-out war of attrition. Game-2 lasted 16-minutes. The match was 30-minutes old at the first sit-down! Murray took set-1 on his 3rd-break, the fifth of the match. Holding serve wasn’t easy. Unforced errors were common. But the shot-making and relentless effort from both captivated everyone. Over two hours in, the match became a best-of-3 as Delpo secured the set on a huge forehand pass that sent Argentine fans into a frenzy.

Murray picked up the pace at the tail-end of set-3, winning the final four games, gaining the lead with a break. In the fourth, neither could hold. With Del Potro up 5-4, serving for the set, both were cramping – struggling to get through extended deuce battles. Murray seized a remarkable break to level the set at 5-all. Down 15-40 in the next game, Murray fought back to take the lead 6-5, his first advantage the entire set. It was now or never for the 2012 Gold Medalist…at deuce, Del Potro offered up a rare forehand miss, but saved match point. Andy took the ad back, and closed it out on match point #2, earning his second consecutive Olympic Gold.

At the net, the two kept each other standing with a long embrace that defined the significance of the moment. Murray, now an undoubted Olympic juggernaut. Del Potro, back where he belongs at the top of the sport, fearlessly attacking the most intimidating champions of the game.

The Olympic Games. While most lean toward watching athletics, swimming, gymnastics and beach volleyball – tennis truly delivered some of the most dramatic and compelling storylines of the competition. It was an absolute honor and privilege to witness it in person and be a part of the victory ceremonies.

Andy Murray’s Road to the Gold Medal:

  • GM: def (ARG) Juan Martin Del Potro 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5
  • SF: def (JPN) Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-4
  • QF: def (USA) Steve Johnson 6-0, 4-6, 7-6(2)
  • 3R: def (ITA) Fabio Fognini 6-1, 2-6, 6-3
  • 2R: def (ARG) Juan Monaco 6-3, 6-1
  • 1R: def (SRB) Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-2

Juan Martin Del Potro’s Road to the Silver Medal:

  • SM: — (GBR) Andy Murray 5-7, 6-4, 2-6, 5-7
  • SF: def (ESP) Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(5)
  • QF: def (ESP) Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 7-6(4)
  • 3R: def (JPN) Taro Daniel 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-2
  • 2R: def (POR) Joao Sousa 6-3, 1-6, 6-3
  • 1R: def (SRB) Novak Djokovic 7-6(4), 7-6(2)

MENS SINGLES BRONZE MEDAL MATCH

[4] (JPN) Kei Nishikori def [3] (ESP) Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-7(1), 6-3

Over on Court-1, Kei Nishikori had fresher legs – earning Bronze with a 3-set victory over 2008 Gold Medalist Rafael Nadal. Up until yesterday, Nadal was living an Olympic dream. He and childhood friend Marc Lopez captured Doubles Gold on Friday, and he was undefeated in Olympic Singles competition. Juan Martin Del Potro ended Rafa’s fairy tale by extending his own.

Nadal left it all out on the court in the Semifinal, battling Del Potro to a third-set tie-break. Nishikori, flamed-out from his three-set Quarterfinal win over Monfils, spent much less time on court…faling to Murray in straight-sets. Nishikori had several more hours to recover, and he used that to his advantage in the Bronze Medal match Sunday. It was do-or-die for Rafa in set-2, and he extended the match with a dominant 7-1 win in the tie-break. But Nishikori was able to find another gear in the decider, earning his first career medal in his third Olympic Games.

Kei Nishikori’s Road to the Bronze Medal:

  • BM: def (ESP) Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-7(1), 6-3
  • SF: — (GBR) Andy Murray 1-6, 4-6
  • QF: def (FRA) Gael Monfils 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(6)
  • 3R: def (SVK) Andrej Martin 6-2, 6-2
  • 2R: def (AUS) John Millman 7-6(4), 6-4
  • 1R: def (ESP) Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2, 6-4

Rafael Nadal’s Road to the Bronze Medal Match:

  • BM: — (JPN) Kei Nishikori 2-6, 7-6(1), 3-6
  • SF: — (ARG) Juan Martin Del Potro 7-5, 4-6, 6-7(5)
  • QF: def (BRA) Thomaz Bellucci 2-6, 6-4, 6-2
  • 3R: def (FRA) Gilles Simon 7-6(5), 6-3
  • 2R: def (ITA) Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-3
  • 1R: def (ARG) Federico Delbonis 6-2, 6-1

WOMEN’S DOUBLES GOLD MEDAL MATCH

[7] E.Makarova/E.Vesnina def [5] T.Bacsinszky/M.Hingis 6-4, 6-4


They are 2-time Grand Slam Champions and now, Olympic Gold Medalists. Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina won their first Slam together at Roland Garros three years ago. In 2014, they captured the US Open title over Hingis and Pennetta. In their second Olympics as a team, the two found the top of the podium and a renewed passion playing together.

The pair is now 9-0 after their Quarterfinal loss at Wimbledon. Coming into Rio 2016, they won the title in Montreal…in fact, they haven’t dropped a set since their fall to Venus and Serena at the All England Club two months ago. Impressive.

MIXED DOUBLES GOLD MEDAL MATCH

B.Mattek-Sands/J.Sock def (USA) V.Williams/R.Ram 7-6(3), 1-6 [10-7]


What a show. Venus Williams may not have earned Gold on Sunday, but with her Silver finish in Mixed Doubles, she became only the second tennis player in history to earn five Olympic medals. Britain’s Kathleen McKane won five medals in back-to-back Games between 1920-24.

In his first Olympic Games, Jack Sock won Men’s Doubles Bronze with partner Steve Johnson on Friday. Sunday, he added Gold with he and Bethanie Mattek-Sands’ match tie-break win over Venus and Rajeev.

I have to be honest – it was pretty inspiring to announce Gold and Silver for the United States during the Medal Ceremony…