- The Washington Times - Monday, August 18, 2008

— BEIJING | As Rafael Nadal stood in front of the medal podium, his nation’s flag draped across his back like a cape, he looked a little like a Spanish Superman.

In tennis, he is.

Already assured of the No. 1 ranking, Nadal was No. 1 at the Olympics. He won a gold medal Sunday, overcoming two set points in the second set and holding every service game to beat Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

The gold medal was the first for Spain in Olympic tennis and another milestone in an astounding summer surge by Nadal, who officially will end Roger Federer’s 4 1/2-year reign atop the rankings Monday. Nadal has won 38 of his past 39 matches, including victories over Federer in the finals at the French Open and Wimbledon.

“Nowhere in my best dreams I can imagine something like what I did this year,” Nadal said. “I know how difficult it is to win these things and especially here because you only have one chance every four years.”



Elena Dementieva earned the gold in women’s singles, taking advantage of 17 double-faults by fellow Russian Dinara Safina to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.

In women’s doubles, Venus and Serena Williams of the United States won the gold, beating Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain 6-2, 6-0. The sisters celebrated with shrieks, then shared a hug.

The Williams sisters failed to medal in singles but found considerable consolation in doubles, improving their lifetime Olympic record as a team to 10-0. They won the doubles gold at Sydney but didn’t play in Athens four years ago because Serena was hurt.

“It does mean more for me to win it with Serena, to share this kind of moment with your sister,” Venus said. “I mean, we are practically joined at the hip.”

Yan Zi and Zheng Jie of China beat Ukraine’s Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko for the bronze 6-2, 6-2.

Russia swept the medals in women’s singles when Vera Zvonareva beat Li Na of China 6-0, 7-5 to win the bronze. That victory made Russia the first nation to win all three medals in one tennis event since Great Britain did so in the 1908 women’s singles.

Tennis was not a medal sport between 1924 and 1988.

Men’s singles has traditionally been an upset-filled event at the Olympics, and Nadal is the first player ranked in the top five to win the gold. He stayed in the athletes’ village and said the experience rejuvenated him.

“I arrived very tired,” he said. “The reason probably I won this title is because I have a fantastic time here enjoying a lot in the village. That was amazing experience for me. Always was a pleasure to know new people, no?”

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