Tennis has officially wrapped up at the Olympics until Paris in 2024. The tournament was full of big upsets and a rather strange atmosphere of empty stands in the hot Japanese sun, but delivered entertainment and medals to a few high seeded favourites and some unlikely faces.
Belinda Bencic became the first Swiss woman to win an Olympic gold medal in tennis and the first Swiss to win gold since Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka won the men's doubles in 2008.
Bencic defeated Czech Marketa Vondrousva in three tight sets 7-5 2-6 6-3 on Saturday in Tokyo. The 24-year-old has dealt with several injury challenges throughout her career after coming through as a promising junior. In 2017, after surgery on her wrist, Bencic dropped to number 300 in the world after taking several months off to recover.
"I'm so happy. It's a dream coming true for sure. I have no words how this happened and this is for sure the biggest thing I ever achieved and I will ever achieve," Bencic said after the match.
"Sport can be so brutal at times, but so beautiful at other times. I'm just so thankful and happy and grateful that it happened for me in this Olympic Games."
While the rather subdued final was played in front of no crowd, moments of drama still provided entertainment for those watching at home. Leading 4-3 in the final set, Bencic called for the trainer, complaining of a blister on her right foot, much to the ire of spectators and commentators.
Commentating on US television, Australian Rennae Stubbs questioned the timing and fairness of Bencic's injury timeout.
"This is a pivotal time to call a trainer," Stubbs said.
"You should have to do this before you serve.
"This is an obvious blister. In my opinion, you shouldn't be allowed to do this before your opponent's serve.
"This is called icing the server down on the other end."
Belinda Bencic the surprising gold medalist winner after dramatic final. Roger had a doubles gold, but 🇨🇭 finally has a singles🥇-plays for dubs 🥇tomorrow. Only wish she hadn't frozen Vondrousova with medical timeout for a toe blister. I hate that tennis rules allow for that🤷🏻♂️
— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) July 31, 2021
Bencic broke Vondrousova to love the following game, going on to win the gold and her first major tournament since 2019. In the bronze medal match, Ukrainian Elina Svitolina defeated Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina in three sets, winning her first Olympic medal.
In the men's singles, German Alexander Zverev had the biggest win of his career, becoming the first German tennis player to take home a medal since Steffi Graff in 1988.
Zverev, who made the US Open final in 2020, defeated world number one Novak Djokovic in the semi final to make it to the gold medal match, ensuring Djokovic would not be able to obtain the coveted golden slam.
Zverev faced Russian Karen Kachanov in the final, winning 6-3, 6-1 in just one hour and 19 minutes. While Zverev has won 16 titles in the past, he has traditionally struggled in big tournaments. His maiden grand slam final appearance in New York last year was seen by many as the turning point in the career of a young star deemed as the best of a promising next generation.
In the bronze medal match, Spainard Pablo Carreno Busta produced an upset win over Novak Djokovic, winning 6-4 6-7 (6) 6-3. Djokovic saved a match point in the second set, eventually breaking though to take the match to a third, but failed to convert chances in the decider and became increasingly frustrated. As Carreno Busta held serve early in the third, Djokovic threw a racquet into the empty stands, smashing another one against the net post.
In the mixed doubles, Australia won their first medal in the sport since 2004 when Ash Barty and John Peers were awarded Bronze after Djokovic and teammate Nina Stojanovic withdrew from the bronze medal match.
Djokovic complained of a shoulder aliment and mentioned exhaustion as a reason behind his withdrawal. Barty was finally awarded a coveted Olympic medal after falling short in both the singles and women's doubles draws. In the gold medal match, Andrey Rublev and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won for the Russian Olympic Committee, defeating compatriots Aslan Karatsev and Elena Vesnina in straight sets.
In the women's doubles, Bencic partnered with Viktorija Golubic to try and achieve a double gold but fell short, losing to Czech duo Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova in straight sets.
The men's doubles gold medal match was an all Croatian affair, with experienced duo Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic defeating Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig to claim the gold. In the bronze medal match, Kiwi pair Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus defeated American duo Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren to claim New Zealand's first tennis medal.
History for New Zealand 🇳🇿 🥉
— ATP Tour (@atptour) July 30, 2021