Top 10: Olympic tennis moments
Originally published on: 17/07/12 00:00
1. Massu’s dream double – Athens 2004
Despite winning the gold medal with Fernando Gonzalez in the men’s doubles in a three-hour epic that lasted until the early hours of the morning, Nicolas Massu, somewhat unbelievably, went on to play a five set match the very next day to clinch singles gold. Mardy Fish, who Massu defeated 6-3 3-6 2-6 6-3 6-4, was left amazed by his opponent. “He just kept getting better and better and more untired,” he said.
2. Graf’s golden slam – Seoul 1988
1988 was an incredible year for Steffi Graf. She not only became just the third woman in history to win all four Grand Slams in a calendar year but also triumphed in the Olympic final in Seoul, beating Gabriela Sabatini 6-3 6-3. She completed the golden slam at just 19 years old – a feat that may never be achieved at that age ever again.
3. Nadal’s golden world No. 1 – Beijing 2008
Rafael Nadal’s gold medal in China in 2008 not only had an impact in Spain but it also rocked the tennis world as he became the highest-ranked player to win the Olympic event. It was Spain’s first ever gold medal in tennis and Nadal, after winning his eighth title of the year, became world No. 1 for the first time, knocking Roger Federer off the top spot after 237 consecutive weeks.
4. Henin’s impressive recovery – Athens 2004
Though already a three-time Grand Slam champion, Justine Henin was not tipped as one of the favourites for the gold medal in Athens. A viral infection limited her to just one victory in the four months before the 2004 Olympics, which makes it even more remarkable that she even medalled let alone won the gold. Her straight sets victory over Amelie Mauresmo was Belgium’s first gold in Greece and a special feat for the 22-year-old.
5. Capriati’s teenage gold – Barcelona 1992
Steffi Graf had won the Golden Slam four years previously, not to mention the tennis demonstration event at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, and many expected her to clean up at the Olympics once again. However, a16-year-old Jennifer Capriati, who only had three titles to her name – Puerto Rico, Toronto and San Diego – and had become the youngest player to be in the top 10 at just 14-years-old, came back from a set down to defeat Graf 3-6 6-3 6-4.
6. Agassi’s debut win – Atlanta 1996
Regarded as one of the best hard court players in the world, Andre Agassi went on to win gold in front of his home crowd. He defeated Sergi Bruguera 6-2 6-3 6-1 in a straightforward final, but while it may have been a joyous occasion at the time it is perhaps more memorable because it was the only Olympic event the American ever played in.
7. Federer’s Greek exit – Athens 2004
Even as far back as 2004, an early exit for Roger Federer still came as a surprise. He had won his first Australian Open earlier that year and retained his Wimbledon crown so few expected an 18-year-old Tomas Berdych to come back from a set down and cause an upset. According to Berdych he was helped by the fact the match was not played in the main arena. Federer also went on to lose in the doubles on the same day.
8. Chilean controversy in China – Beijing 2008
Epic is the only word that can be used to describe this semi-final match but it remains better known for its controversial ending. James Blake held three match points in the third set and was left incensed by Gonzalez’s admission that he did not touch the ball as a forehand from the American flew long as the Chilean served to stay in the match. Video replays showed Gonzalez was guilty but he voiced his innocence nonetheless, seeing out a 4–6, 7–5, 11–9 triumph.
9. Roddick and Haas thriller – Athens 2004
In the most enthralling match of the Athens Olympics, Andy Roddick saved two match points against Tommy Haas to progress to the third round in Greece. The 2003 US Open champion took the final set 9-7 and revealed afterwards that he had never played under so much pressure. “This Olympic tennis thing is a lot different than anything I’ve encountered,” said Roddick. “I was pretty nervous out there.”
10. Britain’s silver success – Atlanta 1996
Tim Henman arrived in Atlanta on the wave of his first decent Wimbledon appearance. With no expectations from the public or on themselves he and Neil Broad gave Great Britain something to talk about – a long awaited medal. They fell to ‘The Woodies’ in the final but it was the first British medal in tennis since it was re-introduced as an Olympic event in 1988.