Rio 2016: Day-7. Nadal wins another Gold

Rafael Nadal is now a 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist…and has a chance to make it 3 by Sunday. Friday night, he and childhood friend Marc Lopez stood atop the podium as the Spanish Anthem played.

Rio 2016 Olympic Gold Medalists

Rio 2016 Olympic Gold Medalists

It was Marc’s first Olympic medal and an emotional victory for both. Nadal, after the victory ceremony: “It is a privilege to be able to share this moment with one of my best friends.”

Romanians Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau took home the Silver – both earning their first Olympic medals; while Americans Steve Johnson and Jack Sock defeated Canadians Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil in the Bronze Medal Match.

The Gold Medal victory was Rafa’s second win of the day. Earlier that afternoon, he overcame host-city favorite Thomaz Bellucci to reach the Singles Semifinals. Andy Murray, Juan Martin Del Potro and Kei Nishikori are the remaining Semifinalists…

Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig has been playing phenomenal tennis here in Rio. On Friday, she upset 2-time Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova to earn her place in the Gold Medal Match. She’ll face reigning Australian Open Champion and World #2 Angelique Kerber on Saturday night. Kerber defeated Madison Keys on Friday, and has reached the medal rounds without dropping a set. Keys and Kvitova will be first-up on Court-1 Saturday to determine the Bronze Medalist.

(PUR) Monica Puig

(PUR) Monica Puig

Martina Hingis will get a chance to earn her first Olympic Gold on Sunday. She and partner Timea Bacsinszky advanced to the Gold Medal Match with a win over the highly decorated Czech Team of Lucie Hradecka and Andrea Hlavackova. Hingis and Bacsinszky will face 5-time Grand Slam Champions Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in the Final. It will be an all-Czech Bronze Medal match on Saturday as Hradecka and Hlavackova will face Barbora Strycova and Lucie Safarova.

The Mixed Doubles Semifinals are set. Team USA is guaranteed a spot on the podium. Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram defeated Roberta Vinci and Fabio Fognini on Friday. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jack Sock eliminated host-city favorites Marcelo Melo and Taliana Pereira. With a pair of Semifinal victories on Saturday, it will be an all-American Mixed Doubles Gold Medal Match on Sunday.

Team USA:

  • BRONZE: (USA) S.Johnson/J.Sock def (CAN) D.Nestor/V.Pospisil 6-2, 6-4
  • (USA) V.Williams/R.Ram def (ITA) R.Vinci / F.Fognini 6-3, 75
  • (USA) B.Mattek-Sands/J.Sock vs (BRA) T.Pereira/M.Melo
  • (GER) Angelique Kerber def (USA) Madison Keys 6-3, 7-5
  • (GBR) Andy Murray def (USA) Steve Johnson 6-0, 4-6, 7-6(2)

(PUR) Monica Puig def [11] (CZE) Petra Kvitova 6-4, 1-6, 6-3


Breakthrough year for Monica Puig? Understatement. Puig started 2016 with an improbable run in Sydney. She played through qualifying to reach her second career WTA Final. In June, she was a Semifinalist in both Nottingham and Eastbourne, and reached the Semi’s in Florianopolis less than two weeks ago. Monica has climbed 61-ranking points since January 1st, and is now ranked #34 in the World. Here in Rio, she scored her first top-10 win – defeating World #4 Garbine Muguruza in the 3rd-Round. Tomorrow, she will complete for Olympic Gold. Remarkable story.

NEXT: (GER) Angelique Kerber

Monica Puig’s Road to the Gold Medal Match:

  • SF: def (CZE) Petra Kvitova 6-4, 1-6, 6-3
  • QF: def (GER) Laura Siegemund 6-1, 6-1
  • 3R: def (ESP) Garbine Muguruza 6-1, 6-1
  • 2R: def (RUS) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 6-2
  • 1R: def (SLO) Polona Hercog 6-3, 6-2

She’s a 2-time Wimbledon Champion. Tomorrow, she’ll compete for her first Olympic Medal. In her third Olympic Games, Petra will compete for Bronze in the Women’s Singles Competition. 8-years-back in Beijing, she and doubles partner Lucie Safarova fell in Round-1. In London, Russia’s Maria Kirilenko took her out in the Singles Quarterfinals. Tomorrow, the only thing standing between her and Olympic Bronze is Germany’s Angelique Kerber / Madison Keys of the United States.

NEXT: (USA) Madison Keys

Petra Kvitova’s Road to the Bronze Medal Match:

  • SF: — (PUR) Monica Puig 4-6, 6-1, 3-6
  • QF: def (UKR) Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-0
  • 3R: def (RUS) Ekaterina Makarova 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
  • 2R: def (DEN) Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-4
  • 1R: def (HUN) Timea Babos 6-1, 6-2

[3] (ESP) Rafael Nadal def (BRA) Thomaz Bellucci 3-6, 6-4, 6-2

“OLE, OLE-OLE-OLE, THOMAZ…THOMAZ!”

Rising to the moment. Leaning into the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, tennis fans in Rio held high-expectations for Brazilian doubles greats Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares. When the pair crashed out in the Quarterfinals – the weight of a host-nation fell on the shoulders of World #54 Thomaz Bellucci.

Thomaz was outplayed in Round-1 by Germany’s Dustin Brown. When Dreddy shredded a pair of ankle ligaments in set-2, Bellucci advanced with the retirement. In Round-2, he proved he was here to win matches, outlasting Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas. When he convincingly eliminated World #13 David Goffin in Round-3, it became clear something very special was happening for the 28-year-old from Sao Paulo.

Nadal def Bellucci

Nadal def Bellucci

On Friday, that “something special” continued…as he captured the first-set in an Olympic Quarterfinal with legend Rafael Nadal. Thomaz broke the 2008 Gold Medalist twice in set-1, and sealed it with an ace. Center court lost its mind. Fans erupted from their seats – singing, chanting, willing the Brazilian to win.

In game-1 of set-2, Nadal fell behind 0-30. Chair umpire Jake Garner found himself muttering “Obrigado” at least 12-times between each of Rafa’s serves; fans were desperate to show their support for the Brazilian with each Nadal miss. Rafa landed his first break in game-4, then broke again to earn the set on a running forehard pass.

In the decider, Nadal stole game-4 again, then only allowed Bellucci one more game the rest of way. Remarkably, Nadal remains undefeated in Olympic Singles competition. He’s now 10-0 with a Gold Medal, and starving for another.

Seeing Rafael Nadal compete in Rio has made the entire tennis world truly understand just how devastated he was to miss the 2012 Summer Games in London. Rafa has been tremendously inspiring this week – not just for his success on the court – but by the overt pride he takes in representing his country. His unbridaled joy after winning Thursday’s Doubles Semifinal with Marc Lopz was something very special to witness. Here in Rio – there’s no pile of cash at the end of the rainbow. There are no ranking points to earn. Just athletes, determination, character…and three medals.

NEXT: (ARG) Juan Martin Del Potro

[2] (GER) Angelique Kerber def [7] (USA) Madison Keys 6-3, 7-5

Angelique Kerber is a Grand Slam Champion. Tomorrow, she’ll compete for Olympic Gold. 4-years-ago in London, she defeated Venus Williams in two tie-break sets, before falling to Victoria Azarenka in the Olympic Quarterfinals. After winning the Australian Open in January, reaching the Wimbledon Final in July, and earning her 9th career title in Stuttgart – Kerber carries significantly more confidence into this year’s Games, and it’s been obvious with her straight-sets results thusfar.

NEXT: (PUR) Monica Puig

Angelique Kerber’s Road to the Gold Medal Match:

  • SF: def (USA) Madison Keys 6-3, 7-5
  • QF: def (GBR) Johanna Konta 6-1, 6-2
  • 3R: def (AUS) Sam Stosur 6-0, 7-5
  • 2R: def (CAN) Eugenie Bouchard 6-4, 6-2
  • 1R: def (COL) Mariana Duque-Marino 6-3, 7-5

Madison Keys has had a hell of a year herself. She flew to Rio straight from the Rogers Cup in Montreal, where she played in her third Final of the year. Back in June, she won her second career title in Birmingham. In her Olympic debut, she has reached the Medal Rounds and will compete for Olympic Bronze tomorrow. Keys and Kvitova have played four times berfore. They’ve each won two of their previous matches. Madison won their last match en-route to the Rome Final back in May.

NEXT: (CZE) Petra Kvitova

Madison Keys’ Road to the Bronze Medal Match:

  • SF: — (GER) Angelique Kerber 3-6, 5-7
  • QF: def (RUS) Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-1
  • 3R: def (ESP) Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
  • 2R: def (FRA) Kristina Mladenovic 7-5. 6-7(4), 7-6(5)
  • 1R: def (MNE) Danka Kovinic 6-3, 6-3

MEN’S DOUBLES GOLD MEDAL MATCH

(ESP) M.Lopez/R.Nadal def [5] (ROU) F.Mergea/H.Tecau 6-2, 3-6, 6-4

OLY16-097

Rio 2016 Olympic Doubles Champions

Marc Lopez and Rafael Nadal. Olympic Doubles Champions. Eight years ago in Beijing, Nadal won Singles Gold – and remains undefeated in Olympic Singles competition. This was his third Olympic Doubles run. In Athens, he and partner Carlos Moya fell in the First Round. In London, he and Tommy Robredo fell in Round-2. In a shocking First Round upset four years ago, Marc Lopez and partner Marcel Granollers were defeated by Israelis Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram.

Needless to say, standing atop the podium Friday night was an incredibly rewarding experience for the lifelong freinds, and a memory cast in Gold that they’ll cherish forever.

Silver Medalists Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau of Romania gave the Spaniards a fight on Friday night. While Nadal and Lopez dominated set-1, breaking both Tecau and Mergea – the Romanians stepped-up their service game in set-2. Mergea and Tecau protected all the way through, while Lopez dropped a hiccup after the first sit-down. After 77-minutes, the Gold Medal match was all even, headed for a decider…

Set-3 was tight. The Romanians struck first, breaking Lopez to go up 4-3. Marc and Rafa broke right back and cruised, winning the final three games of the match. It’s a tough loss to swallow for Florin Mergea. He played remarkably throughout the match, then missed two consecutive overheads in the final game, handing the victory to Lopez and Nadal.

(ESP) Marc Lopez / Rafael Nadal Road to the Gold

  • GM: def (ROU) Florin Mergea / Horia Tecau
  • SF: def (CAN) Daniel Nestor / Vasek Pospisil
  • QF: def (AUT) Oliver Marach / Alexander Peya
  • 2R: def (ARG) Juan Martin Del Potro / Maximo Gonzalez
  • 1R: def (NED) Robin Haase / Jean-Julien Rojer

[5] (ROU) Florin Mergea/Horia Tecau Road to the Silver

  • SM: — (ESP) Marc Lopez / Rafael Nadal
  • SF: def (USA) Jack Sock / Steve Johnson
  • QF: def (BRA) Marcelo Melo / Bruno Soares
  • 2R: def (MEX) Santiago Gonzalez / Miguel-Angel Reyes-Varela
  • 1R: def (ARG) Federico Delbonis / Guillermo Duran

(USA) B.Mattek-Sands/J.Sock def (BRA) T.Pereira/M.Melo 6-4, 6-4

Both American Mixed Doubles Teams are in the Mixed Doubles Semifinals. Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram defeated Roberta Vinci and Fabio Fognini in straight-sets on Friday, while Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jack Sock eliminated host-city favorites Taliana Pereira and Marcelo Melo.

(USA) Mattek-Sands / Sock

(USA) Mattek-Sands / Sock

The Mattek-Sands and Sock Quarterfinal didn’t start until late here on Center Court, as Jack was needed for the Olympic Men’s Doubles Victory Ceremony…

After claiming Bronze and receiving his medal with partner Steve Johnson, Jack took the court with Bethanie and dominated the Brazilians. The tandem took the first set 6-4, then won the final five games off the match to guarantee themselves a shot at medaling. With a Semifinal win over Lucie Hradecka and Radek Stepanek on Saturday, Mattek-Sands and Sock will play in the Mixed Doubles Gold Medal Match. Should they fall, they’ll compete for Bronze.

Venus and Rajeev will face Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna of India on Saturday…making an all-American Gold Medal Match a very real possibility.