Rio Olympic Tennis: The Value of Medals Won in Doubles

With most of today’s action wiped out by rain storms, I am going to take a moment to look at doubles.  It is a topic I almost never discuss on tennis abides.  I like playing doubles, but play a pretty vanilla style (occasional poaching and no I formation).  The men’s doubles event has already reached the medal round.  Every team remaining will win at least a pair of bronze medals. For many of the remaining doubles competitors an olympic medal will either equal or exceed any other accomplishment they have in tennis.  This is important and can have positive ripple effects for these players because it will assure each of them that the countless hours of work they have put in have resulted in something tangible. Playing the rest of their careers with the assurance that their career amounted to something recognizably valuable will allow for more relaxed play in both doubles and singles. Typically players succeed more often when feeling self-assured.  Therefore, these medals could be quite important turning points.

What an Olympic Doubles Medal Means for Rafael Nadal

Rafa Nadal has won 14 majors, 1 olympic gold, and been ranked #1 in singles.  He has been part of some of the most memorable tennis clashes in history (Australian Open 2012 and Wimbledon 2008 and 2007 jump immediately to mind).  Nadal has also been part of 4 Davis Cup winning teams.  Still, Rafa has not won a major since June 2014.  The 2016 olympic games could be a launching pad for a return to big wins.  Adding a second and possibly third olympic medal to his resume only help Rafa in GOAT discussions as well. Therefore, these medals mean a lot to Rafa.

What an Olympic Doubles Medal Means for Daniel Nestor

While Nestor’s status in tennis is not in the same galaxy as Rafael Nadal, he too has a secure legacy before these games conclude.  Nestor has won 8 grand slam titles in men’s doubles, 4 grand slam titles in mixed doubles, and 1 gold medal in men’s doubles.  A second medal coming to Nestor at the age of 43 is a testament to Nestor’s talent and professionalism in matters of fitness and preparation.

What an Olympic Doubles Medal Means for Marc Lopez, Vasek Pospisil, Jack Sock, and Steve Johnson

Marc Lopez won the 2016 Roland Garros doubles title with Feliciano Lopez (no relation). Marc Lopez also has been part of two runner-up teams at major doubles tournaments. Adding an olympic medal to his other doubles accomplishments helps give Marc Lopez a nice place among the many decorated male tennis players from Spain.  He may not be at the front of the Spanish Armada like Rafa, but he is in the Spanish Armada now.

Vasek Pospisil has an opportunity to round out aspects of his young career as well. Pospisil and Jack Sock won the Wimbledon doubles title in 2014.  He also reached the 2015 Wimbledon singles quarterfinal.  An olympic medal adds to a promising start for Pospisil in doubles and perhaps could aid his singles efforts due to increased confidence.

Steve Johnson won two NCAA singles titles and was part of 4 NCAA team titles at Stanford University.  He has won one ATP 250 level event in singles and reached the round of 16 in singles at Wimbledon 2016.  Johnson is known as a hard working player who is currently inside of the ATP top 25 in singles.  Johnson is unlikely to ever win a Grand Slam title. However, an olympic medal has immediate value to even the most casual of sports fans. Inside the United States, NCAA success is also recognizable to casual sports fans.  Thus, Jack Sock’s assured 2016 medal in doubles and pursuit of a 2016 medal in singles mean a great deal in terms of how anyone who meets and learns about Johnson will view his career.

Jack Sock’s singles career is somewhat similar to that of Steve Johnson.  Sock has also cracked into the ATP top 25, he has won one singles title, and reached the round of 16 at one major (Roland Garros 2015).  Sock holds a Wimbledon doubles title and a US Open mixed doubles title.  These successes in doubles plus an olympic medal in doubles are also immediately recognizable to casual sports fans.

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