Israel's Noam Gershony played the perfect match in defeating Team USA's David Wagner to capture the 2012 Paralympic Games gold medal in quad singles.
© Steve Goldberg
6 - David Wagner, a six-time US Open champion, now owns six Paralympic medals after claiming a gold and a silver in London at the 2012 Paralympic Games.
Wagner's long-time compatriot Nick Taylor came to root on his friend and collect his bronze medal after winning on Friday over another Israeli, Shraga Weinberg.
© Steve Goldberg
By Steve Goldberg, special to USTA.com
LONDON -- Winning a medal at the highest level of your sport is enough for many athletes -- yet when you've worked so hard to become the best at what you do, there's little solace in silver when your heart is set on gold.
So with that, David Wagner tried hard to put on a happy face as the second place medal in the Quad singles at the London Paralympic Games was placed around his neck.
His best wasn't good enough on a day when Israel's Noam Gershony played a perfect match; contained, deliberate, and oh-so-deadly accurate on Centre Court at Eton Manor, winning 6-3, 6-1.
It's arguable as to whether this was the best from the top-ranked Wagner who had already won doubles gold with Nick Taylor for the third consecutive games.
The three overall medals by the USA in London, all from the Quad Squad, are second only to the powerhouse Netherlands' seven.
Taking nothing away from his opponent who played a brilliant match, you could see it in his eyes that Wagner, who has already earned a silver and bronze in singles play, desperately wanted the gold to round out the set.
"Noam played well; I don't want to take anything away from him," said Wagner. "I felt good out there and tried to do what I could."
Like any champion, or competitive athlete for that matter: It's not about winning and losing as much as it's knowing that you left everything out there on the field of play.
"Obviously I'm bummed a little bit -- I didn't get the result that I wanted," said Wagner. "That's tennis, y'know? That doesn't make it any easier but you just go out there and try your hardest every time."
There's a vibrancy to Wagner's game, a swagger of sorts that comes when all the hard work and effort pays off. His battle cry is a hearty "Come on!" with a hard "cuh!" when a shot flies particularly straight and true or when he reaches the unreachable ball with a deft return for point.
There were not many, if any, of those today.
The second ranked Gershony is a former helicopter pilot who was injured in a crash with another chopper on a dark night near Israel's northern border. Today, Gershony was a sniper, playing within himself; calm, cool, collected; always keeping the ball in play until he saw the moment to pounce, at which point he consistently found the corners or passing lanes to beat the world's best.
"In the beginning there were a lot of unforced errors from the both of us," said Gershony. "It took me a few games to get into the match and after I clinched the first set I was more relaxed and more composed. I was able to play my game better in the second set and I think that influenced the score and I think his self-confidence. It gave me confidence and I think the momentum was with me."
"Noam played incredible," offered Nick Taylor. "He just never let him In it. His strokes, his style are just so high percentage. He doesn't try for the big winner; he doesn't try for the big shot, he just controls everything. It's hard to get an error out of him."
Team USA Head Coach Dan James agreed.
"I think there were some chances early in the match for David and you have to take your hat off to Noam because he took those away from David and just played a superior tennis match today," said James. "He was outstanding."
One of the great aspects to Wagner's game is his sense of the game, the understanding of court coverage and angles. James said that Gershony took that away.
"Biomechanically, Noam's strokes are very short which means that he can adjust decisions and adjust his targets more often than other players," James explained. "Today, his decisions on hitting to the outer third of the court just kept David in the defensive position. It makes him much harder to read. His serves, his ground strokes, the motion is so short that you don't get time a read off the swing so you are reacting off the ball and not able to anticipate.
"You've got the give him credit because he was the one on offense most of this match."
Wagner had invested a lot of himself in the run-up to London. He moved to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. to train full time, sacrificing normality to immerse himself in the Olympic/Paralympic mindset and take advantage of what was offered there.
"It's been worth it," said Wagner. "I would not do it if it wasn't. It's more about the journey, not just the medal. I've been fortunate to have my friends and family here throughout the entire time and they've been able to participate and enjoy it.
"It's not just about winning a medal. Did I want to win it? Yeah. It doesn't change who I am as a person. I'm going to train harder and give it everything I have."