YES! It’s all over! Roger’s quest for Gold, Rafa’s sweaty shirt-changes and our relentless quest to find Olympic tennis on t.v. But I can’t leave well enough alone – here’s my take on this week’s results.
More after the jump..
Tennis and the Olympics
We all love the Olympics – the spectacle, the drama, the whole “One World One Dream” BS. But let’s face it, a medal in tennis is still considered a novelty accomplishment. At the very least, Olympic tennis highlights the odd juxtaposition of personal glory vs. national pride, high paid Superstars vs. Citizen Athletes and individual vs. team accomplishments. In what other Olympic sport do you hear so much talk about what the real worth of a medal is to the participants? But all this is moot in the heat of the Olympic moment, when even the most elite and accomplished of tennis players are moved to tears (Novak), screams of joy (Elena) and odd voodoo rituals (Roger) that they would otherwise hold back. So yes, tennis at the Olympics is still an odd duck, and probably won’t ever mean as much to our sport as a Slam, but for the players and fans it’s a nice change from the traditions and expectations of the pro circuit.
Fernando Gonzalez: He now has a silver to add to his Athens gold (in dubs) and bronze (in singles). But he also has one less friend to invite to his backyard barbecues – James Blake having thoughtfully and reasonably described him as a liar and a cheat to the international press this week.
Novak Djokovic: The bronze medal is no doubt a huge accomplishment and a source of great pride for himself and his country. He probably deserved the silver for his great semifinal match against Nadal. Too bad his victory was completely overshadowed by. . .
Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka: It was a joy for everyone involved (except maybe their opponents) to watch Roger and Stan play their hearts out on court. Rog was the only guy to make it to both the quarterfinals in dubs and singles this week and his team’s victories over the great Indian pairing of Bupathi/Paes and the No. 1 Bryan Bros, should shut up anyone who would say that the doubles isn’t as competitive as the singles competition. And like Davis Cup, the Olympics really brings out the team nature of doubles – the gold medal being a win for individual, team and country. For non-Swiss Fed fans, we were just happy to see our guy smiling again.
Simon Aspelin and Tomas Johansson: Not much to say here, except that Simon is an unqualified tennis BABE of the first order. Yay, Sweden!
The Bryan Brothers: If they’d met Roger and Stan in the finals, who knows what could have happened. Their bronze medal match was no cakewalk either, taking on the world class pairing of Clement/Llodra, who beat them in the Davis Cup finals last year. I liked Mike and Bob’s take on the situation – they said they’d rather go out winning the bronze than losing the gold. Class all the way, those two.
Elena Dementieva: I can’t root for her anymore after all her smack talk against the Williams sisters, but heck, the girl deserved the gold – if only because she actually served out her matches against Serena and Dinara. Seriously, her serve’s okay now. It’s also amazing to think that she won the silver all the way back in Sydney, 2000, making her one of the longest lasting Russians on tour.
Dinara Safina: This was a weary, ragged Dinara that we saw in the last few rounds. She was the Russian who made it through to the finals despite major serving issues (nearing 20 double faults in the final!) I don’t think she’s in “yips” territory yet, but the U.S. Open may be coming up too soon for her to recover her A game.
Vera Zvonareva: She wasn’t even supposed to be in Beijing, and now she’s coming home with the bronze. That’s the depth of Russian tennis.
Williams sisters: Their gold medal in doubles is a great Team U.S.A. photo op and yet another sign that they could be the most dominating doubles team in history, if they ever wanted to be. Both have said this week that they plan to play in the London in 2012, which is the best news American tennis fans have heard all year.
In case anyone was wondering, Spain’s silver medal doubles team of Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virgina Ruano Pascual won the French Open this year and Pascual is a nine-time Grand Slam doubles champion.
It was nice that the Chinese pairing of Yan Zi and Zheng Jie (remember her from Wimbledon?) took the doubles bronze for the host country.
Rafa will be No. 1 on Monday. He is now the Unbeatable One in the locker room. A few weeks ago I might have said that it would be impossible for him to win the U.S. Open, that he’d be too tired and that the surface is too fast, but now I’d say he is the favorite. Will he ever lose his motivation to win? It’s getting harder to imagine every day.
Roger Federer has lost his edge completely, his “shock” upsets becoming less and less shocking as the opponents become more and more mediocre. But the doubles gold made him happy and he has now come to terms with his awful year, so who knows what he can do in New York? For the first time since I’ve been his fan, he’s coming into a Slam with almost no pressure and very little expectations from the outside world. Perhaps this will help him.
The women’s game is in such a state of disarray, it’s hard to think about the rest of the season. The Williams sisters are healthy, which is a great thing going into the Open, but Sharapova is definitely out, Ivanovic is probably out and Jankovic has gone from next big thing to majorly overrated all while holding the No. 1 spot ranking for only a week (it will return to side-lined Ivanovic on Monday.) This sad state of affairs makes me wonder if I’m clinging to Dinara Safina simply out of desperation. Until the serving debacle these past few days, I thought she was the only smart bet out there.
That’s it for now, tennis fans! Enjoy the rest of the Olympics!
Rafa photo: Getty Images
Mens singles gold photo: Reinhard Krause/Reuters
Roger/Wawa photo: Xinhua/Xing Guangli
Russian women photo: Xinhua
Williams sisters photo: AP