Rio 2016: Day-6. Rafael Nadal wins twice

Voice Over Andy Taylor. Rio 2016. Day-6 Results

On Thursday, Rafael Nadal kept his undefeated streak alive (9-0) in Singles competition during the Summer Games, defeating Giles Simon to reach the Quarterfinals. The 2008 Gold Medalist and doubles partner Marc Lopez then teamed to take-down Canada’s Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil, guaranteeing a place on the podium. On Friday, Rafa and Marc will face Romania’s Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau in the Gold Medal match. With so much at stake on Friday, Nadal then withdrew from the Mixed Doubles draw.

Not to be outdone, Andy Murray earned two wins on Thursday, as well. In an incredibly bizarre and streaky match, Murray survived a 3-setter with Fabio Fognini to reach the Singles Quarterfinals. When Florin Mergea and Monica Niculescu withdrew from the Mixed, he and Heather Watson stepped-in at the last minute – earning a first-round win over Carla Suarez Navarro and David Ferrer in straight-sets.

The story of the day for Brazilians – without question – was the inspired play from local favorite Thomaz Bellucci. After wins over Dustin Brown (injured) and Pablo Cuevas – on Thursday, Brazil’s top-player defeated World #13 David Goffin 7-6(10), 6-4 to reach the Quarterfinals. He’ll face Nadal in Friday’s second match on Center Court.

The Brazilian team of Teliana Pereira and Marcelo Melo was also victorious on Thursday, advancing to the Mixed Doubles Quarterfinals with a win over Caroline Garcia and Nicolas Mahut of France.

Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig will start-off play Friday against World #14 Petra Kvitova. Puig’s inspired Olympic run has been impressive, with wins over Polona Hercog, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Garbine Muguruza and Laura Siegemund. A win on Friday vaults her to the Gold Medal match. Should she lose, Monica will still compete for Bronze.

The Americans went 4-for-5 on Thursday. Madison Keys is an Olympic Semifinalist; Steve Johnson a Quarterfinalist. The Mixed Doubles pairings of Venus Williams / Rajeev Ram and Bethanie Mattek-Sands / Jack Sock both won their first-round matches. While Steve and Jack fell in the Doubles Semifinals to Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau, they will compete for Bronze on Friday versus Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil.

Scroll below for complete match recaps from Center Court…

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Team USA

  • [7] (USA) Madison Keys def (RUS) Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-1
  • [12] (USA) Steve Johnson def (RUS) Evgeny Donskoy 6-1, 6-1
  • (USA) V.Williams/R.Ram def (NED) K.Bertens/J.J.Rojer 6-7(4), 7-6(3) [10-8]
  • (USA) B.Mattek-Sands/J.Sock def (GBR) J.Konta/J.Murray 6-4, 6-3
  • [5] (ROU) F.Mergea/H.Tecau def (USA) S.Johnson/J.Sock 3-6, 5-7

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[3] (ESP) Rafael Nadal def [15] (FRA) Gilles Simon 7-6(5), 6-3

Rafael Nadal remains undefeated in Singles competition during the Summer Games. He won Gold in Beijing, then missed London with a bum knee. Rio 2016 is more than just another triumphant return from injury for the World #5 – he’s been rehabbing the left-wrist since late May, when he withdrew from the French Open after his 2nd-Round victory. It’s more than just another tournament, another Slam; these are the Summer Games, where the world’s top-athletes compete for something bigger than a trophy or medal. Representing one’s nation is an honor; a humbling responsibility that Nadal takes very seriously.

Rafa’s first of two matches Thursday found him on Center Court facing a familiar opponent, Gilles Simon of France. It was their 9th career clash. Gilles had only beaten Nadal once before, eight years prior in Madrid…

Thursday morning was breezy with intermittent sunshine. Conditions were tricky; 1st-serves elusive. Simon struck first, breaking Rafa at love before the opening changeover — but Nadal broke right back after trading ad’s in an extended deuce-duel. He was finding his rhythm, bringing more slice and altering pace. Nadal broke again to go-up 4-2, but the tricky conditions caught up with him. A double-fault at deuce set-up Simon to level the set on Gilles’ second break point. Both held the rest of the way.

In the tie-break, Nadal jumped out to a 5-1 lead, but Simon surged, erasing both mini-breaks. That would be all for Gilles, however. He sailed a backhand long, and Rafa served out the tie-breaker in the 75th-minute.

Nadal then dominated set-2. He broke Simon twice before the first sit-down. Down 2-5, Gilles erased one of the breaks as Rafa was serving for the match; but Nadal broke right back, claiming his spot in the Rio 2016 Quarterfinals…still undefeated at the Olympic Games (9-0).

NEXT: (BRA) Thomaz Bellucci

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[2] (GBR) Andy Murray def (ITA) Fabio Fognini 6-1, 2-6, 6-3

Fabio Fognini has fond memories of Rio. In February of 2015, he defeated Rafael Nadal 1-6, 6-2, 7-5 to reach the Rio Open Final. It was his first of three wins over Rafa last year (Barcelona, US Open). Here at the Summer Games, he needed three-sets in each of his previous wins. His second-round battle with Benoit Paire ended 7-5 in the deciding set’s tie-break.

On Thursday, conditions remained challenging as the sun finally broke through. Serving on the east end of the court meant you were staring directly into the sun. Wind gusts nearly blew court-side signage onto the field of play. Murray handled it best, jumping out to 5-0 lead, then taking the set 6-1.

In the second, Murray was up 2-1 during the first changeover. By all appearances, it was going to be a quick afternoon. Then, out of nowhere, the tide turned. Fognini couldn’t lose; Murray couldn’t get anything in. Fognini won 9-consecutive games, earning the second set 6-2 and jumping ahead 3-0 in the third. Fabio was relentless; Andy, exasperated. Finally, Murray held serve to put a game on the board. It was an incredible run by Fognini against the World #2 — and oddly reminiscent of that match with Nadal 18-months-prior at the Rio Open.

WAIT! Hold up. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

The hold tasted good. Murray wanted more. He won the next three games to jump ahead 4-3. It was Fognini’s turn to search for answers, AND go mental on chair umpire Ali Nili. After a code-violation and a visit with tournament referee Wayne McEwen, Fognini found himself serving just to stay in the match. He could only muster a single point.

What a bizarre match — London’s Gold Medalist launched a streak of his own when it mattered, winning six consecutive games to earn his place in the Quarterfinals.

NEXT: [12] (USA) Steve Johnson

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[2] (GER) Angelique Kerber def [10] (GBR) Johanna Konta 6-1, 6-2

On paper, this was supposed to be a hell of a match…

Both Angelique Kerber and Johanna Konta have had remarkable seasons. They last played in the Australian Open Semifinals, where Kerber advanced 7-5, 6-2. She then went on to win her first Grand Slam title over Serena Williams.

After Melbourne, Kerber would go-on to reach the Semifinals in Miami and Charleston, win her 9th-career title in Stuttgart, reach her second career Major Final at Wimbledon…and last week, reach the Semifinals at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.

Konta would go on to reach the Round of 16 at Indian Wells, the Quarterfinals in Miami, score a top-10 win over Roberta Vinci in Rome, play through the Semifinals in Eastbourne, win her 1st career title at Stanford — and last week, reach the Quarterfinals at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.

Game-one lived-up to what was promised on paper. It was a back-and-forth deuce battle that lasted 8-minutes. Kerber scored the break. A quick 21-minutes later, she took the first set 6-1.

Konta then broke to open set-2. Kerber responded by wining four straight games. Konta held to put a second game on the board, but that would be it. Angelique held, then broke to reach the Rio 2016 Semifinals…where she is guaranteed a shot at medaling. Should Kerber win in the Semi’s, she’ll play in the Gold Medal match. If she loses, she’ll compete for the Bronze.

NEXT: [7] (USA) Madison Keys

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H.Watson/A.Murray def C.S.Navarro/D.Ferrer 6-3, 6-3

On Thursday afternoon, Florin Mergea earned a spot in the Men’s Doubles Gold Medal Match with partner Horia Tecau, defeating Jack Sock and Steve Johnson 6-3, 7-5. Florin figured it was in his best interest to pull-out of the Mixed Doubles draw to rest-up and prepare for Friday’s medal-round. Tough news – but completely understandable – for Florin’s Mixed Doubles partner Monica Niculescu.

After his win with partner Marc Lopez, Rafael Nadal made the same decision. Nadal and Lopez defeated Canadians Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil 7-6(1), 7-6(4) in the Semifinals. It was Rafa’s second win of the day, after advancing to the Singles Quarterfinals earlier in the afternoon. Rafa’s withdrawal was even more understandable for his Mixed Doubles partner Garbine Muguruza. If he had decided to play, Thursday night’s match would’ve been his THIRD match of the day. Crazy talk.

As it stands, Nadal will play two matches again on Friday. His Quarterfinal clash with Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci is the second match on Center Court. Then tomorrow night, he’s guaranteed either the Silver or Gold as he and Lopez take on the Romanians in the Gold Medal Doubles match.

While Nadal and Muguruza’s first-round Mixed Doubles opponents received a walk-over (Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradecka), Mergea and Niculescu’s first-round opponents weren’t so lucky (David Ferrer and Carla Suarez Navarro). Shortly before the conclusion of the final singles match on Center Court Thursday night, Heather Watson and Andy Murray declared their eligibility for the event.

Murray and Watson stole the first set from the Spaniards, after breaking Suarez Navarro to go up 5-3. Andy Murray then served out the set. In the second, the teams traded breaks mid-way as both Murray and Ferrer dropped their serves. Suarez Navarro then double-faulted away another break, Heather held at love, and Team Great Britain delivered the win by overcoming Ferrer’s serve for a second time. Like Nadal, Andy Murray picked-up his second win of the day.