2004 saw the the Olympic games once again fall between Wimbledon and the US Open. Much like the Atlanta games these games were held on a similar hard court surface to that of the US Open. This was more desirable than the red clay of the 1992 games, but the games being in Athens meant that participants would travel from North American events in Canada and Cincinnati to Athens and then back to New York to finish the hard court season.
The Women Again Hold Form
The women’s tennis events in the Olympic games have produced a lot of top quality champions. 2004 was no exception. Justine Henin won the gold medal by defeating Amelie Mauresmo 6-3, 6-3. Henin won the 2003 French Open and US Open along with the 2004 Australian Open. Injuries derailed Henin for much of the remainder of 2004, but this gold medal was a nice post-injury prize. Li Ting and Sun Tiantian won the gold in doubles for China. The importance of tennis’ growth in China cannot be overstated. Conchita Martinez won another medal in doubles by picking up the silver with Virginia Ruano Pascual.
Massu Goes Gonzo and Wins 2 Golds
After Wimbledon 2004 ended, Roger Federer stood as a 3 time major champion, but Andy Roddick had made a strong effort in his 4 set loss to Federer. Roddick’s gains by attacking the net at Wimbledon were blunted after Federer beat Roddick routinely to take the Masters Series Canada title. It appeared that the surprise tactic would not have lasting repercussions for their rivalry. Still, most people would have expected either Federer or Roddick if not both to medal in 2004. Instead, Chile dominated the games. Nicolas Massu won the gold medal in singles by defeating Mardy Fish in an epic match 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 . Fernando Gonzalez took Roddick out en route to the medal rounds and won the bronze medal by beating Taylor Dent 6-4, 2-6, 16-14 (30 game deciding set!). Two medals for Chile would not be enough as Gonzo and Massu took the gold in doubles as well by defeating Nicolas Kiefer and 2003 Australian Open runner-up Rainer Schuttler in another marathon 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4. The Chilean players also upset the Bryan twins in straight sets en route to the medal round. Given that Massu never won another hard court event in his career and that he and Gonzo were not exactly doubles specialists, these victories appear to be a bit miraculous. 5 set finals in singles and doubles plus an excellent bronze medal match gave Chilean tennis a week for the ages. Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic took the bronze medal home for Croatia in doubles.
Final Verdict – An Ambiguous Games
While the men’s results in 2004 were as odd as they were in 1992, the idea of Olympic tennis had grown on the tour and top players seemed committed to the process in a manner that the top players of 1992 lacked. Women’s singles had produced gold medalists of Graf, Capriati, Davenport, Venus Williams and Henin in the 4 modern era games for tennis. Still, it would not be until 2008 that both the men and women put forth truly compelling results.