Before turning my eyes to Toronto, it is of circumstance to give one last look at a great Olympic tournament, which has brought the consecration of some of the greats of the sport, the redemption/rebirth of some others and, all in all, has given us great emotions over the last nine days.
Coming into these Olympics, five players were in a quest for their Career Golden Slam. In the end, three have managed to do it, and in great style.
Before talking about them (and thus, making another exception on what this blog is usually about – men’s tennis – it’s necessary to make a very important correction. I’ve read many talking about players achieving a Golden Slam last weekend. This is, I’m sorry to say, wrong.
A Golden Slam is winning the four Grand Slams and an Olympic Gold medal in the same Olympic year. To this day, only one person has managed to accomplish this rare feat: the great Steffi Graf.
Winning the four Grand Slams and an Olympic Gold, but not in the same calendar Olympic year, is a Career Golden Slam, which remains a great feat. However, this technicality is necessary, not to diminish what has been accomplished this weekend, but to emphasize how rare doing it all in one year is.
This said, three players finally achieved their Career Golden Slam over the weekend.
Bob and Mike Bryan: dominating legends
I remember asking Bob and Mike Bryan, last year, what their goals were since they have their Career Grand Slam, Olympic Bronze (in 2008), and over 700 wins. Bob, then answered that finishing the year ranked no 1 is their goal every season but that, “we’ll be shooting for that Gold Medal next year [this year], and if we win, great, it’s just the cherry on top of the story of our career, for us.”
On Saturday, they added “the cherry on top of the story of their career”, when they convincingly defeated Frenchmen Michaël Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-4 7-6(2), adding Olympic Gold to their 78 titles, including 11 Grand Slam titles (for which they are still tied with the Woodies).
A moment of great emotion for the twins, who now have joined Todd Woodbridge, Mark Woodforde, and Daniel Nestor, who all have a Career Golden Slam in doubles.
As of now, they are only missing titles in Indian Wells (another of their goals) and Shanghai to join Nestor in having won all the Grand Slams, an Olympic Gold, the World Tour Finals, and all the Masters 1000 at least once in their career (Nestor completed the whole last year when he and Max Mirnyi won the title in Shanghai).
When we talk about legends and greatest of the sport, doubles are sadly often overlooked. However, what doubles players accomplish deserves being mentioned, in my opinion, at the same level as what the singles players do. For all of their accomplishments, Bob and Mike Bryan are assuredly legends, and arguably the best men’s team to ever play the sport.
The nice part? We know we can enjoy them for another four years, as we know that they will play, health permitting, until Rio, in 2016.
Congratulations on your latest accomplishment, Bob and Mike! It’s a fully deserved one, for two greats of the sports and, most of all, two great guys!
Serena Williams: a rare exploit
On Saturday, the women’s singles final was one which would determine who, of Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams, would complete her Career Golden Slam. Furthermore, a Sharapova win would have put the Russian back at the top of the WTA.
However, seeing how dominating Williams was during the tournament, the bar was raised quite high for Sharapova.
In the end, she ended up being routed 6-0 6-1 by the youngest Williams Sister, who finally wins that elusive singles Gold.
Williams, in the wake, became the first to log a Career Golden Slam in both singles and doubles, and added, yesterday, a third Women’s Doubles Gold to her impressive record, completing the double title.
What’s left for Serena to win? Maybe the mixed doubles Career Golden Slam?
Max Mirnyi: finally an Olympic medal!
At the beginning of the Games, I remember seeing some people asking why Max Mirnyi was chosen as Belarus’s flag bearer instead of Victoria Azarenka. This denoted, in my view, both a lack of knowledge of Mirnyi’s great career so far, and another snub of the doubles as part of tennis, as Mirnyi, like Azarenka, is ranked no 1 in the world (along with partner Daniel Nestor).
Throughout his career, Max Mirnyi has won, among his 45 doubles titles, six Grand Slam titles (four times at the French Open and twice at the US Open), two World Tour Finals titles, and 16 Masters 1000 titles. Enough to justify the Belarus Federation’s decision, no?
Yesterday, Mirnyi added Olympic Gold to his record, when he and Azarenka defeated crowd favourites Laura Robson and Andy Murrray, 2-6 6-3 10-8, in the finals.
A welcomed and deserved medal for a great, and too often overlooked, player!
Roger Federer: a singles medal at last
Way before the Olympics, I did not hide that I wanted to see Roger Federer adding Olympic Gold to his impressive record and finally complete his Career Golden Slam.
Many scoffed when they saw his draw, talking about how easy it seemed to him. However, he had to fight to pass the first round against an inspired Alejandro Falla, and his epic semi-final match against Juan Martín del Potro will be remembered for a very long time.
Indeed, he came up a little short in the finals against Andy Murray. However, saying only that will be an immense discredit to the performance of the Scot (I will get back to it later), who never allowed the Swiss to find his range in the match or to hope mounting a comeback.
Nevertheless, Federer was very, very happy to win a singles medal at last, and content with his silver medal:
“I’m very happy. I am satisfied. I think this is as good as I could do during these championships. Andy was much better than I was today in many aspects of the game. For me, it’s been a great month. I won Wimbledon, became World No. 1 again, and I got silver. Don’t feel too bad for me. I am very, very proud honestly to have won a silver.”
I don’t think this was his last chance at a Gold medal. After all, if he is healthy and participates in Rio, I don’t think we would be able to discard him, even then. Let’s hope he does. Still, a Silver medal isn’t bad at all, and his smile when he received it was a really good proof of it, if his kissing it twice wasn’t.
To be continued…