Rio 2016: Day-1. Team USA wins 2 out of 7

Day-1 of Tennis at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games saw it’s share of intriguing upsets and a pair of American Victories. Check out the full match recaps from Center Court below…

Team USA

  • (USA) [7] Madison Keys is into Round-2 with a win over (MNE) Danka Kovinic
  • (USA) [12] Steve Johnson def (BAR) Darian King 6-3, 6-2 in his Olympic debut
  • (USA) [5] Venus Williams lost a heart-breaker to (BEL) Kirsten Flipkens in a 3rd-set tie-break
  • (USA) [14] Jack Sock‘s first Olympics is over. He was taken-out in straight-sets by Japan’s Taro Daniel
    Madison Keys

    Madison Keys

  • (USA) Denis Kudla fell in his Olympic debut 0-6, 3-6 to (SVK) Andrej Martin
  • (USA) Brian Baker fell to (JPN) Yuichi Sugita, after capturing a tight first set
  • (USA) Sloane Stephens lost to (CAN) Eugenie Bouchard in straight-sets. Genie beat Sloane earlier this year in the 2nd-Round at Indian Wells. The Canadian now leads their head-to-head 3-2

Notable Upsets

  • World #4 (POL) Agnieszka Radwanska is done, defeated in the first round by the dangerous (CHN) Saisai Zheng 6-4, 7-5. My guess is Zheng prefers the stringers here in Rio vs. the crew in Montreal.
  • (CHN) Shuai Zhang took-out (SUI) Timea Bacsinszky in a 3rd-set tie-break
  • (AUS) Thanasi Kokkinakis couldn’t deliver in the tie-breaks, falling to (POR) Gastao Elias 6-7(4), 6-7(3)
  • (ITA) Roberta Vinci was the 6-seed in the women’s draw. She got beat in two by Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova


[04] (JPN) Kei Nishikori def (ESP) Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2, 6-4

Tough draw for Albert Ramos-Vinolas to land Kei Nishikori in Round-1. The south-paw came into Rio a month removed from earning his first career title at the Swedish Open. He scored impressive wins over David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco in Bastad, and reached a career-high ranking of World #31.

But in Rio, it’s one-and-done for ARV. Nishikori was too solid, even with a racquet flying out of his hand on serve…

Kei earned a spot in Round-2 by breaking the Spaniard twice in set-1, then scoring a timely break at 4-all in the second. The 2014 US Open Finalist and World #6 has had another great year, and comes into his third Olympics fresh off a Finals appearance at the Rogers Cup – where he fell to Novak Djokovic for the fifth time this year.

  • QF/Australian Open, F/Miami, SF-Madrid, SF-Rome, F-Toronto

NEXT: (AUS) John Millman – who became the first athlete in Olympic men’s singles tennis history to shut out an opponent. He downed (LTU) Ricardis Berankis 6-0, 6-0.


[09] (ESP) Carla Suarez Navarro def (SRB) Ana Ivanovic 2-6, 6-1, 6-2

This was Ana Ivanovic’s first match back since June’s Round-1 dismissal at Wimbledon. She took six-weeks to heal a lingering wrist injury, married Bayern-Munchen’s Bastian Schweinsteiger, and set her sights on Rio’s Olympic Summer Games.

On Saturday, she came out determined, breaking World #12 Carla Suarez Navarro right out of the gate. She broke again to go up 4-1, then earned set-1t on serve 6-2.

CSN had enough.

Suarez Navarro earned the first three games of set-2, then won seven consecutive games to take a 4-0 lead in the 3rd. Ivanovic managed to put together a hold and a break, but it was too little, too late. Down 2-5, she’d save two match points, then fall in Round-1 6-2, 1-6, 2-6. Welcome back.

Carla Suarez Navarro comes into Rio after a tough loss in Montreal, where she fell to Qualifier (SVK) Kristina Kucova. In CSN’s defense, Kucova played out of her mind in Canada, also blowing-through Eugenie Bouchard and Johanna Konta to reach the Semifinals; breaking into the top-100 for the first time.

Suarez Navarro’s had a decent 2016, starting the year with a semifinal run in Brisbane. In February, she won her second career singles title in Doha. During the grass season, she reached her second Semifinal in Birmingham with a Quarterfinal win over World #2 Angelique Kerber.

NEXT: (CRO) Ana Konjuh. Defeated (GER) Annika Beck 7-6(5), 6-1


[05] (FRA) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga def (TUN) Malek Jaziri 4-6, 7-5, 6-3

At 32-years-old, Malek Jaziri is playing the best tennis of his career. Back in March, he earned two ATP Challenger Tour titles in Guadalajara and Guadeloupe. Last month, he reached a career-high ranking of World #58, then took-out Kevin Anderson at the Citi Open in D.C.

Jaziri and Tsonga had tussled before, four years ago in Doha. In that one, Tsonga took set-1 in a tie-break. Jaziri answered with a tie-break win in the second; then completely ran out of gas in the third.

If Jaziri was to earn his first career top-10 win, taking set-1 over Tsonga in Rio was critical.

He delivered.

Malek broke Jo-Wilfried half-way through the first, then held to take the set. In the second, the Tunisian dug-in, protected his serve, and at 4-all – scored a break after ripping a cross-court forehand past the World #9. He was set up perfectly for his first top-10 win.

But not so fast.

Tsonga responded with a break of his own to make it 5-all. Jaziri got tentative. Jo-Wilfried got hungry. The Frenchman broke again to take the set 7-5 and force a decider.

In the third, both dialed it up with impressive shot-making, hammered returns and artistry at the net. Fans loved it. So much so, they decided to interrupt play in game-5 to do the wave. All Malek could do was stand at the service line and laugh. Three games later, Tsonga was the one laughing. He broke the Tunisian, then served out the win with an ace.

Jo-Wilfreid’s last match before the Olympics was a Davis Cup, four-set, Tie-clinching win over Jiri Vesely. Back in April, he defeated Roger Federer in Monte Carlo. He’s been playing well, consistently inside the top-10 for most of the season.

He reached the Singles Quarters four years ago in London, and won Silver in Doubles. The fans in Rio are his kind of tennis fans — he would much rather dangle gold from his neck come August 14th.

NEXT: The winner of (LUX) Gilles Muller vs. (POL) Jerzy Janowicz


(BEL) Kirsten Flipkens def [5] (USA) Venus Williams 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5)

This match was…frustratingly weird?

Yet it was a HUGE win for Kirsten Flipkens. After 3-hours and 13-minutes, she fell backwards onto the court, overwhelmed by the accomplishment. She had defeated a legend and 4-time Olympic Champion 7-5 in the deciding-set’s tie-break. To show her appreciation to the Brazilian fans, she jogged out and kissed the Olympic rings just beyond the baseline. Center Court ate it up.

Ranked #62 in the world, this was Kirsten’s first match since falling in the second-round at Wimbledon. Kirsten started the season by reaching the Quarterfinals in Auckland (after three rounds of qualifying). Back in March, she reached her second career final in Monterrey. In June, she was a Semifinalist in Mallorca after a 1st-Round win over World #4 Garbine Muguruza – a huge win, yes. But not an Olympic win.

At 30-years-old, tonight was Kirsten’s Olympic debut. With Belgians like Kim Clijsters and Justin Henin in her “class,” claiming a spot on the Olympic Team hasn’t been the easiest ask. She knew this was her year – perhaps her one and only shot at representing her country. What an introduction.

The match itself, was a mess. Genuinely…a mess.

In set-1, both got bogged down in deuce battles and lengthy points. Frustrated by a Venus break to go up 5-4, Flipkens basically handed the set to Venus with unforced errors.

Set-2 saw Kirsten jump ahead 3-0, as Venus became distracted by fan-movement and photographers entering the court during play. Before you knew it, we were in a decider after a loooooooong restroom-break from the 4-time Gold Medalist.

In set-3, it was as if neither wanted to win. Despite being up 4-1, Venus couldn’t close it out. Flipkens snuck back into the match, forced the tie-break, and won her Olympic debut against the #6 player in the world.

NEXT: (CZE) Lucie Safarova – who defeated (ITA) Karin Knapp in three-sets.


[06] (FRA) Gael Monfils def (CAN) Vasek Pospisil 6-1, 6-3

This was undoubtedly the antithesis of the night session’s first match. Gael Monfils was in no mood to spend over 3-hours on the court, and Vasek Pospisil didn’t bring the tool-kit to make that happen. Five breaks and 66-minutes past ball-up, Monfils was smacking autographed tennis balls into the stands.

Understandable. While Vasek has watched his ranking tumble to World #100, the flashy Frenchman has put together an impressive season. Two weeks ago, he won his 6th career Singles Title in Washington D.C. It was his 25th career Final. Last week, he fell to Djokovic in the Toronto Semifinals. Back in February, he was a Finalist in Rotterdam, then reached the Quarters in Indian Wells and Miami. In April, he was the Finalist in Monte Carlo – before a viral infection kept him out of the French Open. While he suffered a 1st-Round loss at Wimbledon, he’s been “sur le feu” ever since – carrying that torch into Rio.

Four years ago, Gael fell to Djokovic in the Olympic Quarterfinals. He looks to make a better run in Act II – the first-Olympic Summer Games ever to be held in South America.

NEXT: The winner of (BRA) Rogerio Dutra Silva vs (ITA) Thomas Fabbiano