Rio 2016: Day-3. Team USA goes 3-for-5

(USA) Madison Keys

(USA) Madison Keys

Round-2 arrived on Day-3 of Olympic Tennis competition in Rio. Team USA went 3-2 with wins from Serena Williams, Madison Keys and Jack Sock/Steve Johnson. The day’s most popular matches included Juan Martin Del Potro‘s 3-set win over Joao Sousa and Team Brazil’s doubles battles on Court-1. Thomaz Belllucci and Andre Sa put up a great fight, but fell to Italians Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi in 3-sets. The 3-seeds, Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares lit it up, taking-out Novak Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic. Rafael Nadal was back on campus Wednesday, as well – he and Marc Lopez pulled-off a 3-set win over Juan Martin Del Potro and Maximo Gonzalez to reach the Doubles Quarterfinal.

Here on Center Court – Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber, Juan Martin Del Potro, Serena Williams and Kei Nishikori all advanced. Scroll down for the full match recaps — the atmosphere in Delpo’s match was a first for this Gringo!

Notable Upsets

  • (PUR) Monica Puig def [14] (RUS) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 6-2
  • (LUX) Gilles Muller def [5] (FRA) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Team USA

  • (USA) [1] Serena Williams def (FRA) Alize Cornet 7-6(5), 6-2
  • (USA) [7] Madison Keys def (FRA) Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-7(4), 7-6(5)
  • (USA) S.Johnson/J.Sock def (COL) J.S.Cabal/R.Farah 6-4, 7-6(1)
  • (AUT) O.Marach/A.Peya def (USA) B.Baker/R.Ram 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-3
  • (SUI) M.Hingis/T.Bacsinszky def B.M.Sands/C.Vandeweghe 6-4, 6-4

[11] (CZE) Petra Kvitova def (DEN) Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-4

Petra and Caroline hadn’t faced each other since the New Haven Semifinals last Summer, where Kvitova prevailed in straight-sets. All business at ball-up, Kvitova wasted no time, earning two breaks before the first sit-down. Wozniacki erased one, but Petra broke right back. The first set was done in 45-minutes, 6-2 Kvitova.

Petra Kvitova

Petra Kvitova

In the second, Petra made it clear…medaling in Rio is a priority. The oft unemotive, 2-time Wimbledon Champion screamed and fist-pumped her way to two more breaks. On her second-go serving for the match, she solidified the win 6-2, 6-4.

This is Petra’s third Olympic experience. She was a Quarterfinalist in London. You can tell by her swagger that she’s determined to finish these games on the podium. If she continues to dictate play with her forehand – like she did today – there’s a very real chance that dream comes true.

One small caviat…should she reach the Quarters here in Rio, she’ll most-likely face Serena Williams. You do the math.

NEXT: (RUS) Ekaterina Makarova

[2] (GER) Angelique Kerber def (CAN) Genie Bouchard 6-4, 6-2


The World #2 has always had trouble with Eugenie Bouchard. They’ve played four-times since Kerber’s win at the 2013 US Open. Angelique hasn’t won since. Two years ago, Kerber fell to Genie in the deep rounds of both Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Earlier this year, Bouchard won a 3-setter during Round-2 in Rome.

Here in Rio, it appeared we were leaning-in to another Bouchard victory. Genie jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first…before Kerber rattled-off seven consecutive games. So much for predictability.

Up a break, early in the second, Kerber bounced-back from 0-40 to maintain the upper-hand in the set. Frustrated, Bouchard was left scratching her head. There’d be no answers; only unforced errors and double faults. Angelique convincingly climbed to Round-3 in 1-hour, 21-minutes.

NEXT: (AUS) Sam Stosur / (JPN) Misaki Doi

(ARG) Juan Martin Del Potro def (POR) Joao Sousa 6-3, 1-6, 6-3


Brazilians and Argentinians = Oil and water. Toothpaste and orange juice. Trump and Clinton. These things don’t mix. Combine them, and they’ll leave a sour taste in your mouth. Put ’em on a big stage together, and the gloves come off.

Two games into Juan Martin Del Potro’s Round-2 match with Portugal’s Joao Sousa, a few fans were ejected for blatantly violating the core Olympic values of excellence, respect and friendship. The stadium had been loud since ball-up, evenly split between Brazilian fans essentially rooting against Del Potro, and Argentinians cheering on Tandil’s most famous face. They traded chants, booed each other’s cheerleading, and in one case…came to blows between games 2 and 3. Security responded quickly, but it still took several minutes to eject the fans from the stadium.

OLY16-057

Oil and water. BRA and ARG fans.

After the delay, Del Potro got back to work, broke to go up 5-3 and served out the set. In the second, he’d win only a single game – much to the delight of Brazilian fans. Before the 3rd’s first sit down, Juan rifled a blistering forehand winner, and celebrated the shot by firing-up the largest section of Argentine fans. It was on.

The door to the powderkeg was kicked open and each player had a pocket full of lighters. Fans erupted after every point: Brazilians for Sousa’s success, Argentines on DelPo’s winners. Juan struck the first flint, breaking Sousa to go up 4-2 – then protected his serve to secure the win.

For me – a simple Gringo from the States – the match itself was a fascinating experience; just as powerful as the evening prior when DelPo eliminated Novak Djokovic. In less than 24-hours, Juan went from an electric Center Court atmosphere rooted in mutual respect, to a fire-storm fueled by geographical tensions that have existed for generations.

The stadium’s vibe delivered a true reflection of where we are, here at the first Olympic Games ever to be held in South America.

NEXT: (JPN) Taro Daniel

[1] (USA) Serena Williams def (FRA) Alize Cornet 7-6(5), 6-2


“Yeeeeaaaaahhhhhhh!” screamed Serena Williams, holding-serve to go up 4-2 in set-1. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead on Alize Cornet, she gave-up a break, squandered several break chances of her own, and received a code violation for demolishing her Wilson. She was pissed, and needed a strong service game to reclaim her mojo.

You see, Serena and Alize have a history. It’s unfriendly. They’ve played six times since 2008. While Serena won their only previous Olympic match in the Round of 16 at the Summer Games in Beijing; Cornet has owned the World #1 in their last three encounters. In 2014, Cornet was the “Serena Slayer,” defeating the 4-time Gold Medalist three times – in Dubai, Wimbledon and Wuhan. If you haven’t heard, Serena doesn’t like losing.

Every time you thought Serena had righted the ship in set-1, Cornet would respond with an impressive return game of her own. A tie-break would have to settle it. Serena stole the first mini-break to go up 3-2. Two points later, we were level again. Finally, after an hour and 20-minutes, Serena thrust her arms in the air as if she’d won the match, capturing the tie-break 7-5. But we weren’t done.

Set-2 was a replay of the first. Up 3-0, Serena fired a “Come on!” heading back to the bench. The outbursts got louder and more frequent the closer she came to crushing the Cornet Curse. Up 4-1, Serena broke again, but couldn’t serve it out. She finally sealed the deal on her third match-point in the next return game. Curse crushed. Round-3 next.

NEXT: [15] (UKR) Elina Svitolina

[4] (JPN) Kei Nishikori def (AUS) John Millman 7-6(4), 6-4

Back in May, Australia’s John Millman reached a career-high ranking of #60 in the World. In June, he took out World #23 Benoit Paire to reach the 3rd-Round of the Wimbledon Championships. On Saturday, he became the first singles player in Olympic tennis history to double-bagel an opponent, thrashing (LTU) Ricardis Berankis in under an hour…

(JPN) Kei Nishikori

(JPN) Kei Nishikori

On Monday night, he found himself up 4-0 in set-1’s tie-break – on the hunt for his first career top-10 win. Somehow, out of nowhere, the wheels came-off completely. Kei Nishikori won the next seven points and stole the set.

Kei Nishikori’s had a steady and consistent year. He won his 11th and 4th-consecutive Memphis title back in February, and arrived in Rio after his fourth Final appearance of 2016 in Toronto. Throw-in back-to-back Semifinal appearances in Madrid and Rome, and it’s plain to see why Kei’s been a top-10 staple for nearly two solid years.

In set-2, Nishikori had to climb out of a hole again. Down a break 3-4, he leveled the set to 4-all and never looked back, winning the next two games to reach Round-3.

NEXT: (SVK) Andrej Martin – advanced with a w/o on Philipp Kohlschreiber