Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez took home the first gold medal in tennis at the Rio Olympics Friday. The Spanish duo topped Romanians Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in the men’s doubles gold medal match.
It was their first gold as a team and for Nadal his second following his 2008 gold in singles. And Rafa becomes the fourth player to win gold in singles and doubles after Nicolas Massu and the Williams sisters.
He also did it without playing a match for two months entering the event and also competing in singles earlier in the dya.
“It was amazing experience, especially doing that with one of my best friends, with Marc, is something unforgettable for me, for both of us, I think,” said Nadal after the 2-hour, 26-minute battle.
“Win a gold medal today after two months and a half with no practice, with no preparation at all, just working in the gym, is something that is a dream. The moment was unbelievable, and we had fun. We fight hard. The only thing that we can say is that we are very, very happy.”
The tight match came right down to the wire with the Romania breaking the 34-year-old Lopez to take a 4-3 lead in the final set. But Nadal and Lopez would not be denied winning the last five games for the gold.
“It’s a very unique and special occasion,” said Lopez. “Sharing these feelings with Rafa, being together at the Olympic Village, it’s really a dream come true. All the things we’ve done together, I am the happiest man on Earth.”
Nadal now matches Roger Federer’s 2008 Beijing gold in doubles (but of course Rafa also has singles gold!). And he can still win more this weekend in singles.
“Sharing these feelings with Rafa, being together at the Olympic Village, it’s really a dream come true. All the things we’ve done together,” said Lopez. ‘I am the happiest man on Earth.”
Despite the loss, the Romanians were pleased with the silver medal.
“For me this is the greatest achievement of my career,” said Mergea. “We’ve been dreaming about this moment, to be here and play in the Olympic Games together since we were kids. So to reach the final is something incredible. It was an epic battle. It was one of the longest matches we’ve played here.”
“Of course, it was a tough match, and a tough loss but it is a silver medal,” said Tecau. “It was so close to fulfilling our dream that we had since we were little kids. But it was an amazing match, amazing months and amazing year to get here. I really enjoyed the whole process. It’s not a loss, it’s a win getting this silver medal.”
Americans Steve Johnson and Jack Sock won the bronze with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Canadian tandem Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil.
“It’s awesome. I’ve said it all week and I’ll say it again, it’s been an awesome time playing with Stevie, playing with a really good buddy. Being on a team representing your country has been an extraordinary experience,” Sock said.
“We are going to have these [medals] forever and something we can share together and it’s awesome that we can bring them back to the US for the country.”
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