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Red hot Chilean Massú storms to tennis gold

22 Aug 2004
Athens 2004, Chile, Tennis

Switzerland’s Roger Federer was the overwhelming favourite to win gold in the men’s singles tennis tournament. Ranked number one in the world following the retirement of Pete Sampras, he had already won the 2004 Australian Open and Wimbledon titles by the time he arrived in Athens.

However, Federer’s hopes of Olympic gold were short-lived, as he was surprisingly knocked out by the Czech Republic’s Tomáš Berdych in the second round. He was certainly not the only big name star to lose to a less feted opponent. Great Britain’s Tim Henman also went out in the first round, while world number three Juan-Carlos Ferrero of Spain was beaten in the second round by the USA's Mardy Fish. In the third round the USA’s Andy Roddick was sent crashing out by Fernando González of Chile.

So by the time the tournament reached the quarter-final stage, only two of the top eight seeds were left: third seed Carlos Moya of Spain, and France’s Sébastien Grosjean who was seeded eight. Neither was to make it through to the semi-finals.

Grosjean was beaten by González while Moya lost to another Chilean, Nicolás Massú. Massú, who had begun the tournament as the tenth seed, had arrived in Athens with a hard court record of seven defeats from seven matches, but he now found himself as the highest ranked player left in the tournament.
Inspired by his run of success, he responded with a semi-final victory over the USA’s Taylor Dent, while Mardy Fish beat González in the other semi-final.

For Chile, this was turning out to be an incredible tournament. As well as progressing to the semi-finals in the singles, Massú and González had also reached the final of the men’s doubles tournament, where they faced Germany's Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schüttler. The Chileans eventually got the better of a gruelling three and a half hour encounter in the fifth set to win Chile's first ever Olympic gold medal.

After such an energy-sapping ordeal, it wasn’t surprising that Massú looked a touch weary during the following day’s singles final. After taking the first set, he then saw Fish take the next two, but somehow the Chilean found the strength to respond, taking the final two sets to win his second five-set thriller in the space of 24 hours.

By the end of the Games, Massú and González had won two golds and a bronze between them and they returned home to a heroes’ reception.

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