Reuters Rio de Janeiro
Britain’s Andy Murray advanced to the men’s Olympic final with a straight sets victory over Japan’s Kei Nishikori yesterday, securing a chance to defend his title and become the first player to win two singles golds at the Games. In a commanding performance, the Wimbledon champion and number two ranked player broke Nishikori’s serve early on, breezing through the first set 6-1. Murray served aggressively and quickly closed out the match 6-1 6-4, never giving Nishikori a single chance to break back. “I think I played really well,” Murray told reporters after the match. “I didn’t give him any opportunities on my serves and I was very aggressive when I was returning.”
Asked about the prospect of winning a second straight Olympic gold, Murray said: “It would mean a lot.
It’s obviously not an easy thing to do — that’s why it has not been done before.”
Though Nishikori’s speed allowed him to punch back against Murray’s blazing ground strokes, the Japanese player was plagued by too many unforced errors.
In today’s gold medal match, the 29-year-old Briton will face Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro, who beat Spain’s Rafael Nadal in a slug-fest 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(5). In the second men’s semi-finals yesterday, Nadal took the first set 7-5 but lost the second 4-6. The third set went into a tie-break, where del Potro prevailed. Murray won gold at the 2012 London Games where he defeated Switzerland’s Roger Federer in the final.
But the Briton will have his work cut out for him today. Del Potro, the bronze medallist in London, has drawn energy from boisterous crowds of fans from neighbouring Argentina at the Games. He pulled off an upset by defeating world number one Novak Djokovic in the first round in Rio.
Nadal, who has been beset by a wrist injury, will play Nishikori in the bronze medal play-off today. Nadal, however, will leave Rio with a gold medal for Spain, after he partnered Marc Lopez to clinch the doubles title on Friday night.
Nadal was aiming to become the first man ever to win two Olympic golds in singles, after winning the title in 2008 at Beijing. Nadal skipped the London Games due to a knee injury. The Spaniard also had a chance to become the first player since 1924 to win a gold medal in both men’s singles and doubles at a Games.
Later last night, in the women’s singles Olympic final, Monica Puig of Puerto Rico was to face off against Germany’s Angelique Kerber for gold. Twenty-two-year-old Puig, ranked No. 34 in the world and the underdog in the match, has a chance to win Puerto Rico’s first ever gold medal at a Games.
By reaching the final, and defeating two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the semi-finals along the way, Puig has already guaranteed herself a medal, the ninth ever won by island nation Puerto Rico, a US territory.
But Kerber, the world’s No. 2 female player who is known for her aggressive counter-attacking style, has delivered consistently dominant performances so far in Rio. The 28-year-old won the Australian Open earlier this year, while Puig has never made it to the final eight in a Grand Slam tournament. Also yesterday, Kvitova of Czech Republic defeated Madison Keys of the United States to win the bronze medal in the women’s draw in three sets, 7-5 2-6 6-2.
Safarova and Strycova clinch women’s doubles bronze
Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova won women’s doubles bronze yesterday with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over compatriots, Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. Safarova and Strycova had defeated three-time champions Serena and Venus Williams in the first round but were beaten by Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in the semi-final.
Hlavackova and Hradecka had been just two points from victory over Martina Hingis and Swiss teammate Timea Bacsinszky in their semi-final on Friday. But Hlavackova was accidentally hit in the eye by Hingis and her challenge fizzled out as a result. Hingis and Bacsinszky will face Makarova and Vesnina for gold today.
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