Red hot Chile maestro
At Athens 2004, Nicolás Massú claimed double gold in the men’s singles and doubles (with Fernando González) to secure Chile’s only two Olympic titles to date.
Doubles with González
On Saturday 21 August 2004, on the hard court of the Olympic Tennis Centre in the northern Athens suburb of Maroussi, the Chilean pair of Nicolás Massú and Fernando González took on Germany’s Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schüttler in the men’s doubles tennis final. To reach the showpiece match they had pulled off a surprise 7-5, 6-4 victory over American top seeds Bob and Mike Bryan in the quarter-finals. The gold medal duel would go down in tennis folklore, with Massú and González saving four match points in the fourth set to eventually clinch victory in the fifth (6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-4), providing Chile with its first ever Olympic champions in the process.
Just 24 hours later, Massú was back on court in the singles final, with only hard court specialist Mardy Fish (USA) standing between him and a second gold. On his way to the final, the South American had beaten Gustavo Kuerten (BRA), Vincent Spadea (USA), Igor Andreev (RUS), world number four Carlos Moya (ESP), and Taylor Dent (USA). Massú clinched the title, but not before engaging in another pulsating contest, finally overcoming the big-serving American 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. “Being here, fighting for a medal and winning gold – all of this is amazing. It’s obviously the happiest day of my career. I suspect that playing tennis all week, winning two medals and making history for your country would be a dream for anyone,” stated the champion, who, with his doubles partner González, remains Chile’s only Olympic title winner.
Doing it the hard way
Massú’s game, which is based on a solid forehand, an accurate backhand and an ability to defend as well as attack from the baseline, is generally better suited to clay courts. It is on that surface that he has obtained his best results on the ATP Tour, triumphing in six tournaments between 2002 and 2006. It made his two Olympic successes all the more remarkable, given that they came on a hard court surface known as DecoTurf. “I was so happy; it will always be my greatest sporting memory. When I look back in 10 years’ time, and then in another 10 years, that’s what I’ll remember, and it’ll make me happy again,” mused the hero of Athens.