What a day! What a night! Whatever it was, yesterday/today was a thriller at the Olympic Green Tennis Centre, with eleven hours of non-stop amazing tennis. And after watching via live streaming into the wee hours, I’m practically on Beijing time.
The biggest thing I learned from watching live? That the Olympics means as much as any Grand Slam to the players. To witness Gonzo and Novak sobbing on court after their matches, for entirely different reasons, there’s no way anyone could think they weren’t moved by something bigger than their own egos. And this was “only” the semis.
Here are some of the other cool/moving/insane scenes I witnessed on day six of Olympic tennis:
Gonzo vs. Blake: I went a bit nuts twittering this match because there were so many ridiculous points. It’s a fascinating match-up as both guys have such similar games – with their main weapons both being supersonic forehands. Gonzo has the slight offensive edge and Blake is better on defense. There were a number of jaw-dropping, “did-I-really-see-that?” screaming winners on display throughout the three sets.
It’s too bad that the “touch” controversy will be the main story now that the match is over. If you haven’t heard, a shot of Blake’s late in the third set (8-9 on Gonzo’s serve) brushed the Chilean’s racket and went out. Neither Gonzo nor the umpire said anything about it, despite Blake’s protests. James was broken in his next service game, and Fernando secured his place in the Gold medal match. Replays show that James was correct and the American questioned Gonzo’s sportsmanship and Olympic spirit in his post-match press conference. He has the right to be angry, but he was the one who made it the deciding factor of the match. And in Gonzo’s defense, this stuff happens all the time on the public courts and often you really don’t feel the ball grazing your racket.
Anyway, I’m happy for Fernando despite all the controversy and my nationality. He wept at the end, and I couldn’t help but think how cool it is for him to be in contention for the Gold after his Bronze medal finish in Athens.
Clement/Llodra vs. Johansson/Aspelin: The scoreline sums it up: 7-6(6) 4-6 19-17 (!!!) and almost 5 hours of play. I watched this off and on, cheering for France the entire time. They had a break in the third, but Clement couldn’t consolidate on his serve. Too bad for my fave French team, but the result ultimately pleases me because. . .
Roger and Wawrinka will be playing the exhausted Swedish team for the Gold medal! After finishing off the celebrated Indian pairing of Paes/Bupathi earlier in the day, the Swiss were back on court a couple hours later and beat the amazing Bryan Brothers in straights! I can’t believe it, but I’m thrilled (thrilled!) for Roger. And he’s excited, too! I caught the match point over the Indian team, and Roger did a bent legged, double clenched fist roar like he’d just won the U.S. Open. I think the mild mannered Stan was a bit frightened (“Roger, we’re Swiss, remember?) But Stan loosened up after their second win of the day, judging from photographs. Whoo hoo! Visit Down the Line! for more cool celebratory Roger/Wawa images.
Dinara Safina vs. Jelena Jankovic: It was worth watching this one live. Dinara came out so huge that I thought the match would be over in less than an hour (meaning I could catch Rafa/Djokovic before passing out), but Jelena came back to snatch the second set with her much improved serve and fantastic down the line backhand. But Dinara steeled her nerves and gathered her game, in what is now her hallmark style and refused to lose the third set. J.J.’s defeat dashes more than her hopes for a medal – she’ll also lose the No. 1 ranking after only a week or so! Dinara will most likely be at the top by the end of the season.
Davenport/Huber were ousted by the Spanish team of Medina/Pascual in three tough sets (6-8 in the third), meaning that the Williams sisters are Team U.S.A’s last hope for a Gold medal – they’ll take on the Bondarenko sisters in the semis.
Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal: The scoreline wasn’t as extreme as some of the other matches, but the hitting certainly was! I caught this on TIVO this afternoon and could not believe how hard these guys were hitting the ball. I really thought Novak had it in the end, but Rafa just refused to go away. If you caught the match point, where Novak flubbed a gimme overhead, you’ll understand why the Serb was sobbing all the way back to the locker room. Devastating.
How tough will it be for Novak and James to play for the Bronze, after both being so close to the penultimate position on the medal stand? It almost feels kinder to flip a coin for it.
And one final question: Does Gonzo have a real shot at the Gold? He and Rafa are tied in their head-to-head at 3 wins each, with all of the Spaniard’s victories coming on clay. I’m still not sure who I’ll be rooting for in this one. What about you?
**Note on the t.v. schedule. The women’s gold medal matches were scheduled for tomorrow, but obviously that can’t happen since we’re still in the semis. I’d suggest keeping a close eye on both the oncourt schedule (click here) and on nbc’s t.v. schedule (click here – don’t forget to look at MSNBC’s listings, along with USA’s) to get the most out of your TIVO.
Rafa image: Paul Zimmer/Sergio Carmona (?)
Roger/Wawrinka image: Getty via Down the Line!