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Nadal golden treble is fitting climax
August 18, 2008 08:32 IST
Rafael Nadal [Images] clinched a golden treble to wrap up the Olympic [Images] tennis tournament on Sunday, overcoming Chilean Fernando Gonzalez to add the Games men's singles title to his French Open and Wimbledon [Images] crowns.
The unstoppable Spaniard won 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 to mark his impending rise to the top of the world rankings with his country's first ever Olympic gold medal in tennis.
"It's very difficult to win this because you only have one chance every four years," Nadal, who replaces Roger Federer [Images] as world number one on Monday, told reporters. "I played almost a perfect match."
Before Nadal's fireworks, Russia's [Images] Elena Dementieva enjoyed the biggest moment of her career when she won the women's singles gold medal against compatriot Dinara Safina.
Dementieva, who's silver medal in Sydney eight years ago prefaced a career of near-misses, battled back to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-3. Vera Zvonareva [Images] made it an all-Russian singles podium by beating China's Li Na 7-5, 6-0.
American Venus Williams [Images] claimed the third Olympic gold medal of her career when she and sister Serena thrashed Spain's Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-2 6-0 in a one-sided women's doubles final.
While Dementieva and Safina served up a compelling battle of wills, it was Nadal who everyone had come to see -- apart, that is, for the flag-waving Chilean fans who cooked up a Davis Cup-type atmosphere on Centre Court.
From the start Gonzalez, a doubles gold medallist four years ago, did what he does best, pounding forehands across the net. Nadal munched them all up and fizzed them back from all angles.
Nadal, dressed in the red and yellow of his country and sporting an orange bandana, sealed the first set after a 37-minute masterclass of blurring movement and power.
Gonzalez traded blows with Nadal in the second set, standing toe-to-toe with the raging bull over the net, and his big chance came at 6-5 when he had the Spaniard in trouble at 15-40.
On his first set point he played a perfect point but with the court gaping, put a simple backhand volley wide. He then offered up a forehand gift and his moment had passed.
Nadal stormed the tiebreak and muscled 5-2 ahead in the third set. Gonzalez saved three match points but the insatiable Nadal sealed it on his fourth.
"It looked easy, but when you're tired you get a little dizzy," Gonzalez said of the volley, neatly summing up the effect Nadal has on his opponents.
Dementieva, unlike Nadal, has never won a grand slam title, but she now has an Olympic gold medal in her racket bag after a gutsy triumph against Safina.
"This is the best thing that's ever happened to me in my life and in my career," the 27-year-old, runner-up at the French and U.S. Opens in 2004, told reporters. "I've been dreaming about this moment since I was eight years old."
China did not go home empty-handed from a tournament that has disproved the theory that tennis players do not care about the Olympic Games. Zheng Jie and Yan Zi beat Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine 6-2,6-2 to claim doubles bronze.
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