Rio De Janeiro, Aug 10 - Michael Phelps claimed his 20th Olympic gold medal by…
Rafael Nadal added a second Olympic tennis gold medal to all of those Grand Slam trophies, teaming with Marc Lopez to win the men’s doubles championship for Spain at the Rio de Janeiro Games.
Nadal and Lopez came back from a break down in the third set and claimed the last three games to beat Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau of Romania 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in the final on Friday.
“Amazing experience,” Nadal said, “especially doing that with one of my best friends.”
They’ve known each other since they were kids, first meeting in Barcelona when Nadal, who is four years younger, asked Lopez to play a set for fun. They joked about it at their news conference, agreeing that Lopez won 6-0, but trading good-natured barbs and chuckles because Lopez insisted Nadal was 14 at the time, while Nadal said he was only 12 and, therefore, couldn’t possibly have had a fair chance.
“He was a phenom,” Lopez recalled.
Nadal has gone on to collect 14 major championships, as well as an Olympic title in singles at the 2008 Beijing Games. This gold he got to share with Lopez, a first-time medallist.
The silver for Mergea and Tecau is the first tennis medal for Romania in Olympic history.
The bronze went to Steve Johnson and Jack Sock of the United States. They beat the Canadian team of Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil 6-2, 6-4.
“It is going to be an incredible feeling for the rest of the summer, the rest of the year, for life,” Sock said. “We are going to have this forever. It’s something that we can share.”
Sock and Pospisil won the 2014 Wimbledon doubles championship.
It was another busy day for Nadal, who won his singles quarterfinal in three sets earlier Friday and had been sidelined since withdrawing from the French Open with an injured left wrist.
“To win a gold medal today, after 2 months with no practice, with no preparation at all, just working in the gym, is something not easy,” he said.
Nadal does not play doubles often, focusing on a singles career that has included stints at No. 1 in the rankings and a record nine French Open titles. Of his nine previous tour doubles titles, four came with Lopez, although they hadn’t played a match together this year until arriving in Brazil.
Lopez won his first Grand Slam doubles title at the French Open in June, pairing with Feliciano Lopez they’re not related to beat American twins Bob and Mike Bryan in that final.
On Friday, the Romanians appeared to get the upper hand when they broke Marc Lopez to lead 4-3 in the final set. Lopez double-faulted to love-40, then hit a mediocre lob. Tecau’s overhead was netted by Nadal.
But in the very next game, with Tecau serving, the Spanish duo broke right back. Mergea sailed a forehand long to set up a break point, then put a volley into the net, making it 4-all.
After Nadal held for a 5-4 edge, the Spaniards broke again, converting their third match point when Mergea sent an overhead long.
Nadal and Lopez, both near the baseline, dropped their rackets and fell to the court, staying down for a few moments to enjoy the victory.
After the winners got up and shook hands with their opponents and the chair umpire, Nadal pulled Lopez in for a big hug.