Tokyo 2020: Five of the best tennis moments
Tokyo 2020: Five of the best tennis moments
After nine days of compelling action at Ariake Tennis Park, we reflect on the top five moments that will linger in the memory from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Tennis Event.
Mixed doubles domination
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev, and Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev – representing the Russian Olympic Committee – clashed in the mixed doubles final to ensure their nation would scoop gold and silver medals in Tokyo.
In a thrilling finish, Pavlyuchenkova and Rublev saved a match point – just as they did to beat eventual bronze medallists Ash Barty and John Peers of Australia – to secure the gold.
"The feeling was unreal. Since I was a kid I was watching Olympics on TV, watching the different athletes winning a medal. I was not even thinking about winning a medal. I was hoping that one day I was going to compete,” Rublev said. "Now I’m here with a gold medal. After that shot, in one second all this time passing, all the tears, all the pain… it’s a release, you know. Another level."
With Karen Khachanov winning silver in the men’s singles event, it completed an extremely successful campaign for the Russian contingent at Ariake Tennis Park.
History for New Zealand and Brazil
New Zealand and Brazil won their first ever Olympic tennis medals when their doubles representatives completed emotional victories in Tokyo.
On Friday, Kiwis Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus beat Americans Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren to become the first tennis medallists from their nation since Tony Wilding – who was representing Australasia at the time – who won singles bronze in Stockholm 1912.
"New Zealand is just so Olympics focused – it's such a huge deal – so to show Kiwi tennis players can win medals, I really hope that jump starts the interest and passion for tennis in the younger generation," Daniell said.
A day later, Brazilians Laura Pigossi and Luisa Stefani – last-minute entries into the doubles event – saved four bronze-medal points when trailing 9-5 in a match tiebreak against Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina to complete a stirring comeback victory.
“We had this feeling of confidence throughout and now there is this feeling of pure happiness of having reached a goal,” Stefani said. “This medal is historic for Brazil. It is also a responsibility but also a motivation for us.”
Czech depth on show in Tokyo
With their victory in the women’s doubles gold medal match, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova capped what was an excellent Olympic Tennis Event for the Czech Republic.
Krejcikova, enjoying a brilliant year in singles highlighted by her Roland Garros triumph, advanced to the third round of the singles event in Tokyo, where eventual gold medallist Belinda Bencic stopped her in three sets. Her countrywoman, Marketa Vondrousova, would go on to make the gold medal match, where she too was stopped by Bencic in three.
Interestingly, the talented Vondrousova, a Roland Garros finalist herself in 2019, was not even among the top four Czech singles entrant based on the entry cut-off rankings; she only secured her spot in the draw by invoking a protected ranking rule, allowing her to enter the field ahead of Karolina Muchova.
And then there was Krejcikova and Siniakova’s triumph in the doubles on the final day of tennis action in Tokyo, earning Czech Republic a gold medal in this event following women’s doubles silvers in 1988, 1996 and 2012.
“We just need to thank them because without them, we wouldn’t have the motivation or inspiration, it’s really big,” Krejcikova said, noting previous Czech tennis medallists. “Now we have this beautiful gold medal, it’s pretty much a dream come true.”
Bencic joins Swiss Olympic tennis greats
Bencic’s gold medal run in the women’s singles at Tokyo 2020 continued Switzerland’s proud tradition in the Olympic Tennis Event.
Her countryman Marc Rosset became the nation’s first medal winner in tennis when he snared gold in Barcelona 1992, before Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka formed a star-studded partnership and triumphed in men’s doubles at Beijing in 2008.
Four years later, in London, Federer won silver in the men’s singles while at the Rio Games of 2016, Martina Hingis – a player who has mentored Bencic – and Timea Bacsinszky combined to win silver in the women’s doubles tournament.
Bencic emulated Hingis and Bacsinszky by winning women's doubles silver alongside Viktorija Golubic in Tokyo, and emulated Federer as a multiple medal winner for Switzerland in tennis.
Yet she became the first Swiss tennis player to win multiple medals at the one Games.
During a Swiss-German media appearance Bencic revealed that Federer had sent her a message on the morning of her singles final saying: “Today is a good day to make your dreams come true.”
"I think I accomplished it for them," Bencic said of Federer and Hingis. "They did so much in their careers. I don't think I will ever be able to accomplish what they did. So it's for Martina and Roger."
Zverev stuns Djokovic
Nobody foresaw the upset that would unfold in the men’s singles semifinals when Novak Djokovic lined up against Alexander Zverev.
Zverev may have been a top five-ranked player but he had not beaten Djokovic in almost three years, losing their past five meetings.
Djokovic was the dominant world No.1 who entered the match on a 22-match winning streak; he had dropped just 17 games in four wins in Tokyo en route to the semifinals, and was more than two months removed from his last defeat.
When he swept past Zverev 6-1 in the opening set and went up a break in the second, it looked like all of these aforementioned patterns would continue.
Yet completely against the tide, he was broken to love in the sixth game and dropped eight games in a row before fading to a 1-6 6-3 6-1 loss to the German.
“It seemed it was impossible to beat him at this event, so I’m very happy right now,” Zverev said.
Zverev, impressively, suffered no letdown in his next match, instead producing even better tennis to overwhelm Khachanov in the men's singles gold medal match.