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Pro-Tennis - Nadal tops Chile's Gonzalez in straight sets to capture gold

April 13, 2010 06:30 PM
Rafael Nadal poses on the podium with the gold medal at the awards ceremony following the men's singles tennis final.

BEIJING (AP) -- As Rafael Nadal stood in front of the medal podium, his nation's flag draped across his back like a cape, he looked a little like a Spanish Superman.

In tennis, he is.

Already assured of the No. 1 ranking, Nadal was No. 1 at the Olympics. He won a gold medal Sunday, overcoming two set points in the second set and holding every service game to beat Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

The gold medal was the first ever for Spain in Olympic tennis, and another milestone in an astounding summer surge by Nadal, who will officially end Roger Federer's 4½-year reign atop the rankings Monday. Nadal has won 38 of his past 39 matches, including victories over Federer in the finals at the French Open and Wimbledon.

"Nowhere in my best dreams I can imagine something like what I did this year," Nadal said. "I know how difficult it is to win these things, and especially here, because you only have one chance every four years."

Men's singles has traditionally been an upset-filled event at the Olympics, and Nadal is the first player ranked in the top five to win the gold. He stayed in the athletes' village and said the experience rejuvenated him.

"I arrived very tired," he said. "The reason probably I won this title is because I have a fantastic time here enjoying a lot in the village. That was amazing experience for me. Always was a pleasure to know new people, no?"

He took charge against Gonzalez from the start, breaking serve in the second game. Nadal didn't face any break points until the 12th game of the second set, when he was down 5-6, 15-40.

Gonzalez failed to convert the set points, pushing a volley wide and putting a forehand in the net. The Chilean made five unforced errors in the tiebreaker to give Nadal a commanding lead.

Nadal ripped a backhand passing shot to break at love for a 3-1 lead in the final set, and erased two more break points to hold for 5-2.

He needed four match points to close out the victory, ripping one last Olympian forehand that Gonzalez could barely reach. Nadal collapsed to his back in jubilation.

"I think I played almost perfect match," he said.

Gonzalez settled for a silver medal after winning a gold in doubles and a bronze in singles four years ago in Athens.

"I have chances in the second set, and I didn't take it," Gonzalez said. "After that, Rafa was dominating. He was make me run a lot. He's a great champion, because he has been winning every important tournament in the past months."

Another test is around the corner, and now expectations will be high. Even though Federer has won four consecutive U.S. Open titles, Nadal will be seeded No. 1 when the tournament begins Aug. 25.

 

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