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Gonzalez gives Chile first medal
rediff.com Sportsdesk |
August 22, 2004 00:58 IST
For the second successive night at the Olympic Tennis Centre in Athens, spectators were treated to a marathon bronze medal match.
Late on Friday night, Croats Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic needed a total of 53 games, including 30 in the final set, to quell the spirited Indian pair of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi in the men's doubles bronze medal playoff.
On Saturday evening, sixteenth seeded Chilean Fernando Gonzalez found himself in a similar situation against unseeded Taylor Dent of the United States in the men's singles bronze medal playoff. The third set went on and on and on, stretching for a minute over two hours. And by a quaint coincidence Gonzalez finally won it 16-14, the same score that the Croats had managed some 20 hours earlier.
In the event Gonzalez did not have to rue his failure to close out the match in the tenth game of the third set when he was up a break and simply had to hold serve to win 6-4. The two had traded breaks right at the opening of the set, but Gonzalez had broken Dent again in the fifth game. At that point Dent had looked well and truly out of the match, with his serve failing him and his courtcraft also looking ragged.
But egged on by a goodly crowd of American supporters, Dent suddenly got a second wind to break Gonzalez and put the set back on serve. From that point on games went with serve as neither player was able to put sufficient pressure on the other.
Only in the 29th game was Gonzalez able to capitalize on his fourth break point of the set to suddenly break the streak of service games and set himself up for the match. And this time he made no mistake, getting two bronze medal points on serve and promptly converting the first without much fuss.
There had been no inkling of what was to come in the third set when the match began. Gonzalez was quickly on the move, breaking the American in the third game and taking the set 6-4 in 53 minutes. Dent was never in the match in the first set, failing to get even a single break point on the Chilean's serve, while himself facing 11 break points, 10 of which he managed to save.
But Dent began to put more pressure on Gonzalez in the second set and earned as many as four break points, two of which he converted in the sixth and eighth games to breeze through the set 6-2 in just 31 minutes. And that set the match up for the dramatic two-hour final set.