Center Court was wrapped in Gold on Sunday at the Rio 2016 Tennis Center. A pair of Russians, Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, earned their first Summer Games medals in the day’s first Gold Medal match.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jack Sock earned Gold in the All-American Mixed Doubles Final, while Venus Williams picked up her 5th career medal as she and Rajeev Ram scored Silver.
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 Gold Medalist. This year, 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 Men’s Singles competition during the Summer Games — his only loss in Round-1 of the Beijing 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 here in Rio 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 Summer 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 changeover! 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 Del Potro 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 Gold medal.
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)
— ITF Olympic Tennis (@OlympicsTennis) August 15, 2016
MENS SINGLES BRONZE MEDAL MATCH
 (JPN) Kei Nishikori def  (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 a dream. He and childhood friend Marc Lopez captured Doubles Gold on Friday, and he was undefeated (10-0) in Singles competition at the Games. Nadal won Gold in Beijing, but missed London with a knee injury. But, 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, falling to Murray in straight-sets. Kei 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 Summer 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
 E.Makarova/E.Vesnina def  T.Bacsinszky/M.Hingis 6-4, 6-4
They are 2-time Grand Slam Champions and now — 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 for 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 medals at the Summer Games. Britain’s Kathleen McKane won five medals in back-to-back Games between 1920-24.
In his first Summer Games, Jack Sock won Men’s Doubles Bronze with partner Steve Johnson on Friday. Then on Sunday, added Gold behind 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…