Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez of Spain claimed the Olympic men's doubles tennis title on 12 August, beating Romania's Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau to secure their country's third gold medal of Rio 2012.
The Spaniards needed three sets for victory, overcoming the Romanians 6-2 3-6 6-4. Meanwhile, American duo Steve Johnson and Jack Sock beat Canada's Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil 6-2 6-4 to clinch bronze.
Nadal, who won singles gold in Beijing eight years ago, but then missed the 2012 London Games due to a knee injury, had teamed up with his friend Lopez shortly before the Rio Games. “It’s a privilege to be able to share this moment with one of my best friends,” said Nadal.
A gruelling match lasting two hours and 26 minutes proved a challenge for Nadal who was also going strong in the men’s singles, meaning little time for recuperation between ties. Mergea described winning Olympic silver as “the greatest achievement of my career. 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.”
Nadal, the 2008 men’s singles champion, who missed out on London 2012 through injury, has again struggled for fitness this year. The left-hander is more known for his sweeping ground stokes than the serve and volley play typical of doubles, but opponent Tecau played tribute to this aspect of Nadal’s game. “He is a great player. You don't see this in singles, but he volleys really well. He moves a lot at the net, puts a lot of pressure, defends really well. He can hit an angle in every shot. And he's all over the court. You have to play with precision and play to win most of the time. Otherwise you're going to give him a lot of shots and that's what he likes. Then he takes control of the points.”
The Spaniard had arrived in Rio having not played since May, when he had been forced to withdraw from the French Open. “Just 25 days ago I couldn't even train," he admitted. He now has the prospect of a potential golden double, with a semi-final against Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro in the men’s singles semi-finals on 13 August.