It’s been quite a week in Rio de Janeiro. Some people question whether tennis should have a place at the Olympics – I think the last seven days have proved not only how much the chance to win medals means to the players themselves, but just how exciting tennis can be as a sport. The woes of losing the top seeds in the first few days, instead of ruining the fun, left the tournaments open for some stunning performances. So – here are some of the highlights of the week.
- Andy Murray became the first player, male or female, to defend an Olympic gold singles medal. The Scot is having a stellar year, having made the final of both the Australian and French Opens, won Wimbledon, and now double Olympic champion.
- Monica Puig came out of absolutely nowhere to become the first Puerto Rican to win a gold medal at the Olympics. She beat Angelique Kerber – who is having a fantastic season – in the final, and went through two-time Wimbledon champion and bronze medalist Petra Kvitova, French Open champion Garbiñe Muguruza, and Wimbledon quarterfinalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on her path to the podium. A truly exceptional week from a woman playing lights-out tennis. I only hope she brings the confident, powerful game we saw in Rio to the rest of her season.
- Juan Martin Del Potro knocked out Novak Djokovic in the first round – and then backed it up with a magnificent run to the final. His semi against Rafa Nadal was one of the best matches I’ve seen in years, with the two injury-plagued stars fighting all the way to a close third set tiebreak. DelPo was understandably shattered in the final, but still pushed Murray incredibly close. Both men were in tears shortly after the final shot was played, having truly given their all.
- Speaking of Rafa Nadal, he and his close friend Marc Lopez beat the Romanian pair of Horia Tecau and Florin Mergea to the men’s doubles title in what was perhaps the happiest event ever seen on a tennis court. Rafa is now the first man to have won all four Grand Slams, and gold medals in both singles and doubles at the Olympics.
- The men’s bronze medal match was marked by Kei Nishikori taking an inexplicably long bathroom break immediately after Rafa Nadal came back from a set and two breaks down to force a third. Nadal became increasingly agitated as the break stretched to 12 minutes. Whatever Kei was doing in there worked, as he cleaned up the third set and bronze medal pretty rapidly after that, but I’m not sure how many fans it’s won him.
- Venus Williams fought her way onto the podium once again, collecting a 9th Williams sister Olympic medal over 4 Olympic Games – this time, a silver in mixed doubles partnered with Rajeev Ram. She and Serena crashed out early in both singles and doubles, but Venus’ impromptu entry into the mixed draw gave her her fifth medal.
- Martina Hingis finally won an Olympic medal, taking silver with Timea Bacsinszky behind the Russian pair of Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. The Swiss pair managed a narrow escape in the semis, with Hingis smacking a volley back at their Czech opponents down match point. The ball caught Andrea Hlavackova in the face, and has fractured her eye socket.
- With the exception of poor Hlavackova, the Czechs had a pretty successful tournament. They cleaned up on the cheap medals, with Petra Kvitova taking the women’s bronze, Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova taking third in the women’s doubles, and Hlavackova‘s partner Lucie Hradecka teaming up with veteran Radek Stepanek for the same medal in mixed.
- Andy Murray, feminist superhero, struck once again as John Inverdale said to him that he was the first player to win two Olympic golds – reminding the gaffe-prone broadcaster that the Williams sisters have four each.
- I discovered this extraordinary Tumblr account – http://hugsfromdelpo.tumblr.com/ – and I suggest that you bookmark it to fend off sadness forever.
With thanks to @doublefault28 for all the outstanding .gifs!