US Open 2016: My 5 Favorite Men’s US Opens

Tournaments can take on a personality of their own based on the draw and actual matches that unfold.  5 US Opens stand out for me.  I vaguely remember Connors v. McEnroe in the 1984 US Open semifinal, but I don’t remember an impression of an entire tournament prior to the 1986 US Open (Mecir beating Becker took a toll on me).

5.  US Open 1992 – The Sequel that Surpassed the Original

The 1991 US Open still reverberates in tennis due to Jimmy Connors’ improbable semifinal run.  Outside of that story, the 1991 US Open featured Stefan Edberg administering straight set beatings to Michael Chang (rd of 16), Ivan Lendl (semifinal round), and Jim Courier (championship match).  Edberg played awesome net attacking tennis to disarm and demoralize three players with great passing shots.  Boris Becker, John McEnroe and Andre Agassi all lost early in 1991.  It was the Connors show (and what a show it was), but does that make it a great tournament overall?

1992 had it all.  Jimmy Connors won a 1st round match on his 40th birthday.  He then proceeded to lose a 4 set match to Ivan Lendl and insult Lendl after the match for “bunting” the ball.  Lendl won his first grand slam match over Boris Becker by taking a 5 set round of 16 tilt.  Lendl then came from 2 sets down to lead Edberg by a break of serve in the 5th only to lose a 5th set tiebreak.  Edberg went 5 sets with Richard Krajicek, Lendl, and Chang in succession to reach the US Open final.  Jim Courier won a street fight quarterfinal match with Andre Agassi.  Courier then lost in 4 sets in the semifinal to Pete Sampras. Sampras won the first set versus Edberg before Edberg rebounded to take the next 3 and the title.

1992 had great matches and storylines.  Michael Chang’s 5 set wins over Mal Washington and Wayne Ferreira barely get mentioned.  However, every round seemed to have matches of consequence that were played at a high level.  Sampras’ credits his 1992 loss to Edberg for bringing an increased determination to future major events.

4.  US Open 1988 – Mats Dethroned Ivan

This event had some nice subplots.  Andre Agassi beat Jimmy Connors in the quarterfinal round leading to a changing of the guard at the top of US tennis as well as a contentious press conference.  Agassi found out that his strength and fitness needed to improve when he lost in 4 sets to Ivan Lendl in the semifinal round.

Mats Wilander won the 1988 Australian and French Open titles.  He entered the US Open looking for the #1 ranking as well as revenge for his 1987 loss to Lendl in the US Open final.  Ivan Lendl entered 1988 with Tennis Magazine wondering if anyone could stop Lendl. The two men staged an epic battle for number one that tested both stamina and mental fortitude.  Wilander approached the net often and dared Lendl to hit passing shots.  Wilander led each of the 5 sets by a break at one point, but lost the 2nd and 4th sets from ahead.  A tense final few games resulted in a new US Open champion and a new world number one.

3.  US Open 2004 – Federer was Sublime

Roger Federer began to consolidate his grip on men’s tennis with an undefeated run to the 2003 Masters Cup.  His 2004 Australian Open and Wimbledon titles plus Masters Series successes placed him firmly at number one.  Still, Andy Roddick, the 2003 US Open champion, made the 2004 Wimbledon final competitive and expressed interest in a rematch in front of his fans.  The prospect of a Federer-Roddick final hovered over the first week of the event.

Oddly, it never happened and this US Open is still memorable.  Roger Federer won a two-day, rain and wind interrupted 5 set quarterfinal over Andre Agassi.  Federer then tamed Tim Henman in straight sets in the semifinal round despite having a poor head-to-head record versus Henman at the time.  Federer then crushed 2002 US Open champion Lleyton Hewitt 6-0, 7-6, 6-0 in the final.  These 3 wins set Federer up as the undisputed ruler of men’s tennis and were an example of the virtuoso tennis that he, Nadal, and Djokovic were about to unleash on the sport.

2.  US Open 1995 – The Battle for #1 Ended

Andre Agassi initiated a year-long battle for #1 with Pete Sampras when he took the 1994 US Open crown.  The two met in numerous big matches at majors and Super 9 events. Agassi generally got the better of Sampras in 1995 prior to this showdown. In order to reach the showdown, other battles had to be settled.  Andre Agassi won in 5 sets over an emerging Alex Corretja.  Agassi also won a street fight with Boris Becker in the semifinal round.  Jim Courier won in straight sets over 1995 Roland Garros champion Thomas Muster and in straight sets over Michael Chang to set up a semifinal with Pete Sampras.  Pete fended off a resurgent Courier in 4 sets to set up the battle for the title and the year.  Sampras dispatched Agassi in 4 sets to claim his second major of 1995 and send Agassi on walkabout.

1. US Open 2011 – Djokovic Rising

This event had it all.  It had a battle for supremacy on tour a la 1988 and 1995.  It had grudge matches like the 1992 US Open.  It had virtuoso tennis like the 2004 US Open. Novak Djokovic dominated nearly all of 2011.  His one major loss had come versus Roger Federer in Paris.  Novak found himself behind by 2 sets in his US Open semifinal with Federer.  Novak stormed back to take the 3rd and 4th sets, but he fell behind by a break of serve in the 5th set.  Djokovic saved a match point with a huge and risky swinging return winner.  That seemed to unnerve Federer who did not win another game the entire match.

Rafael Nadal had played excellent tennis in 2011, but was thwarted by Djokovic in the Wimbledon championship match as well as in 4 Masters 1000 finals.  Could Rafa make the 6th time the charm?  The two met in a titanic 4 set match.  The 3 sets Novak won were not exactly close, but Rafa was certainly pushing Novak to play at an unreal level.  Rafa found another gear in the 3rd set and battled back from behind multiple times to force a 4th set. This 3rd set was a preview of their 2012 Australian Open championship match.  I view that 2012 Australian Open final as the greatest match ever played (to this point).

Tennis Power Ranking 2016: Murray & Cilic Smiling after Rio & Cincinnati

The 9th Tennis Power Ranking 0f 2016

  1. Novak Djokovic – Novak missed Cincinnati with an injury and lost to Juan Martin del Potro in Rio.  That doesn’t mean he is not still at the top of my power ranking.  Nole won Toronto with a dodgy right arm.  If his arm is healthier in New York, expect a deep run from the world #1.

  2. Andy Murray – Murray won his second gold medal in singles and posted a runner-up finish in Cincinnati.  Murray losing ahead of the US Open means no distractions regarding a winning streak will be hovering over him.  Andy gets some needed rest this week after playing 11 matches over two weeks in two different continents.

  3. Milos Raonic – The big Canadian skipped the olympics and finished in the semifinal round at Cincinnati.  That is not a terrible exchange, but his play versus Andy Murray was quite flat in their Wimbledon rematch.

  4. Marin Cilic – After solid play on grass and at the Rio Olympics, Marin notched his biggest win since taking the 2014 US Open title.  Murray likely hopes Cilic is on Novak’s side of the US Open draw given how close their match at Queen’s Club was in addition to Cilic beating Murray at Cincinnati.  Change since last ranking – not ranked

  5. Gael Monfils – Monfils won Washington, DC, reached the semifinal round of Toronto, and played well in Rio.

  6. Kei Nishikori – Kei won a bronze medal in Rio and earned a little of Rafa’s ire.

  7. Ivo Karlovic – I am shocked to have him this high, but he won titles in Newport and Mexico, and was runner-up in Washington, DC where he held championship points.  Change since last ranking + 2

  8. Rafael Nadal – Rafa has not played a lot of singles since Roland Garros, but he seems to be alive and well.  Change since last ranking – not ranked

  9. Dominic Thiem – Thiem is much better on clay than other surfaces at this stage of his career, but his quarterfinal run in Cincinnati was a much needed bit of confidence.  Change since last ranking – 2

  10. Grigor Dimitrov – What a difference one week makes.  Grigor is not a threat for the US Open title by any means, but he now looks like a guy who could reach the round of 16 or quarterfinal round.  Change since last ranking – not ranked

Biggest Gain – Ivo Karlovic + 2

Biggest Drop – Dominic Thiem – 2

Entered the Poll – Marin Cilic, Rafael Nadal, and Grigor Dimitrov 

Dropped out of the Poll – Tomas Berdych – surgery knocks him out of the US Open, David Goffin, and Stan Wawrinka

Cincinnati 2016: August 18th ATP Predictions

Predicted Winners in BOLD

Grigor Dimitrov VS (2) Stan Wawrinka – Grigor appears to be playing much better than some of his earlier 2016 form.  Still, I think Stan wins the battle of one-handed backhands by serving bigger than Grigor and pushing him backward during rallies.

Borna Coric VS (3) Rafael Nadal – Coric won a gut-check match last evening after losing a break lead in the 3rd set.  I am tempted to pick him here, but I think mental fatigue is a factor given how tough that match was for Coric.

(1) Andy Murray VS Kevin Anderson – Andy would like to earn some measure of revenge for last year’s US Open loss to Anderson.

(7) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga VS Steve Johnson – I like this match-up for Johnson in the sense of keeping things close, and I hate this match-up for Johnson in terms of winning 2 sets.

(4) Milos Raonic VS (Q) Yuichi Sugita – The big Canadian should serve his way to the quarterfinal round.

(6) Tomas Berdych VS (12) Marin Cilic – The Battle of Goran 2016? I think Cilic will be extra motivated to win this match given that Berdych is now working with Ivanisevic.  I also think that Marin moves more fluidly than Berdych and that could make the difference.

Bernard Tomic VS (5) Kei Nishikori – I will stick with my prediction from yesterday. Tomic certainly could win, but I never know what to expect from Tomic.

Cincinnati 2016: August 17th WTA & ATP Predictions (Weather Permitting

Despite a current hours long drenching, I Looked at Mason, OH’s forecast, and it seems like rain might let up by 12 PM so here goes

Predicted Winners in BOLD

Many are in action today

(Q) Annika Beck VS (3) Simona Halep – Halep won in Montreal and should have some momentum.

Followed By / TBF 6/2 0/3 2nd Rd (WC) Jared Donaldson VS (2) Stan Wawrinka – Sticking with my original pick despite his 1st set loss.

Milos Raonic VS John Isner – Take cover!  I expect Milos to win in 2 or 3 tiebreak sets.

Pablo Cuevas VS (3) Rafael Nadal – Rafa should win, but if Cuevas can make jet lag and Rio’s heavy schedule a factor it might be one to watch for an upset.

Kateryna Bondarenko
or
Kristina Mladenovic VS (2) Angelique Kerber – I’ll take Kerber versus either.

Andy Murray VS Ivo Karlovic or Juan Monaco – It will likely be Monaco, but I like murray versus either.

Mikhail Youzhny VS (5) Kei Nishikori – I would not be shocked if Youzhny pulled an upset, but Kei “Bronze” Nishikori is favored.

Andrea Petkovic VS Lucie Safarova – Safarova is ever so slightly favored in my mind. (51-49)

(Q) Donna Vekic VS (10) Johanna Konta – Konta is is having a good summer.

(4) Garbiñe Muguruza VS CoCo Vandeweghe – Garbine seems quite unpredictable since Roland Garros, but sooner or later she should be her usual effective self again.

Tomas Berdych VS Jiri Vesely or Marcel Granollers – Berdych with coach Goran could be a great tandem, but even if Berdych is not playing better under Goran he should beat either player on a hard court.

John Millman VS (8) Dominic Thiem – Tough one … I think Thiem prefers clay, and Millman has had some nice results.  I’ll take a risk and say Millman wins.
(7) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga VS (WC) Reilly Opelka – If Tsonga can withstand the aces, he should win.

(9) Gael Monfils VS Marcos Baghdatis – This is a fun match, but Gael has been in great form since winning DC.

(14) Nick Kyrgios VS Borna Coric – Nick is a little further along than Coric so long as he keeps his mental game tight.

(5) Agnieszka Radwanska VS Andrea Petkovic or Lucie Safarova – This is complete guess work as I think the play-in match is so hard to decide and either could beat Radwanska.

(6) Roberta Vinci VS (LL) Tsvetana Pironkova – Sticking with Pironkova for this reason.  This tournament has been a rainy slog that followed a commute for many players from Rio rather  than Toronto/Montreal.  Players who already have ranking points in a place they like might be more prone to say this is a disaster and not dig as deep as a player who needs this win for direct entry and/or prize money.

(LL) Johanna Larsson VS Irina-Camelia Begu – Romanian power

Feliciano Lopez VS Grigor Dimitrov – Do we have a refocused Grigor after his drubbing of a typically tough Gilles Simon?

(Q) Alison Riske VS (7) Svetlana Kuznetsova – Riske can do it, but will she?

Johanna Larsson or Irina-Camelia Begu VS (8) Dominika Cibulkova – Again a lot of guess work here.

(Q) Yuichi Sugita VS Alexander Zverev

ATP TBF 4/6 3/5 1st Rd Ivo Karlovic VS (PR) Juan Monaco – I picked Ivo, but he is on the verge of defeat.  So I have to stick with my original pick, but it appears to have been very wrong.

(17) Elina Svitolina VS (Q) Daria Gavrilova – I only have a feeling here and it could be way off.

Kevin Anderson VS (13) Richard Gasquet – Anderson is due for some good results, but this is a 50-50 type match in my mind.

Yuichi Sugita  or Alexander Zverev VS Nicolas Mahut or Roberto Bautista Agut – *No idea*

(13) Belinda Bencic VS (Q) Timea Babos

(LL) Viktorija Golubic VS (Q) Kurumi Nara

(Q) Alizé Cornet VS (9) Carla Suárez Navarro – Cornet can win this match if she keeps it together mentally.

(LL) Misaki Doi VS (WC) Christina Mchale – I love McHale’s fight on court.

TBF 6/7(1) 0/1 1st Rd (Q) Kateryna Bondarenko VS Kristina Mladenovic

(14) Samantha Stosur VS Barbora Strycova

(12) Timea Bacsinszky VS Lesia Tsurenko

Nicolas Mahut VS (15) Roberto Bautista Agut

(Q) Jiri Vesely VS Marcel Granollers

Steve Johnson VS (PR) Julien Benneteau – I think Steve will do well after his medal and warm reception in Cincy.

(WC) Fernando Verdasco VS (12) Marin Cilic – Cilic has been playing well since Queen’s Club, but he had a tough loss at Wimbledon and a tough loss at the olympic games.  He also split with his coach from his 2014 US Open run.  Hot Sauce is totally unpredictable and very dangerous.  I lean Cilic but barely.

Viktorija Golubic or Kurumi Nara VS (16) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Guess work again

We can all hope for a dry Thursday

Cincinnati 2016: Matching Players to Kentucky Bourbons

Masters Cincinnati is close enough to Kentucky that visitors can likely find more bourbon options than they have at home.  This is particularly true if one jaunts south of the Ohio River into Kentucky to a place like The Party Source.  Bill Straub, friend of Tennis Abides, and bourbon expert from Modern  Thirst took my descriptions of the top 5 male seeds and gave corresponding bourbons for their personality.

Blantons-cork-closeup

#1 Seed Andy Murray – He is talented, temperamental, and sometimes too passive. 

Blanton’s

Why? The quintessential single barrel bourbon, Blanton’s is a smooth and sweet bourbon executed perfectly.   It’s also the bourbon I’ve used more than once to win over my Anglo-phile scotch-whisky-drinking friends to the world of truly fine whiskey (with an “e”) that is Kentucky Bourbon.  We don’t need any of that peaty smoke here, just whiskey made the way god intended: the Kentucky way. 

Plus, look at Murray.  Blanton’s iconic horse-and-jockey atop the cork stands out as strongly as Murray’s gigantic ears.

  

# 2 Seed Stan Wawrinka – He is a powerful player who wins through blunt force trauma (excellent but not subtle).

bookers

 

If you’re playing Wawrinka, you’d better be ready for powerful serves and ground strokes.  In other words, be on your toes. 

Uncut, barrel proof, Booker’s is the big bad older brother of the Jim Beam lineup. 

Booker’s can range upwards to tongue blistering alcohol levels, but is chock-full of flavor.  Delicate flavors and subtleties are not its strength.  Booker’s is about being smacked in the face by bold, powerful, classic bourbon flavors.  As Booker Noe himself used to say, “If your’e drinking Booker’s, you’d better have yoru pajamas on.”

 #3 Seed Rafael Nadal – He is one of the best of all time.   Nadal uses massive spin, hustles, and is known for his mental focus.

 pappy20

Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year.

Why? One of the all time great bourbons, Pappy’s flagship spirit is complex and refined.  But no small amount of “spin” has gone into making this brand the most sought-after label in the market.  Pappy really started the bourbon collecting craze, and has undergone various incarnations over the years, including a change of distillery from the legendary Stitzel-Weller to its current home at Buffalo Trace.  There are other great bourbons that have come along in recent years, and some people consider them superior, but Pappy is still the standard by which others are judged.  It’s well rounded, focused, and sweet on the palate with a nice long viscous finish.

 

Plus, we’re all a little tired of Nadal, right?  C’mon.  Like the Pappy craze, it’s time to move on

#4 Seed Milos Raonic – He has one of the biggest serves in tennis.  He has shown great willingness to improve and attack the net.  He is also one of the more friendly players on tour.

 

Bulleit.

Why?  Bulleit is a bit of a difficult label to pin down.  Its mash bill contains a very high level of rye, making it a spicy sip, but it’s marketed primarily towards those who like bourbon cocktails, making it seem very approachable despite its spicy “oomph.”  Bulleit is readily available at most bars and most liquor stores, and for a sourced bourbon (a bourbon purchased from another distiller and bottled under a different name), it’s remarkably consistent. 

Plus, Bulleit has been aggressive lately responding to critics be offering a new barrel proof version of their label to reach an ever-broadening market.  Like Raonic’s willingness to improve, Bulleit seems willing to expand their product line to meet demand.

#5 Seed Kei Nishikori – He is a player who attacks the ball early and robs time from his opponents.  He has great timing and strokes, but lacks a huge serve and is injury prone.

 4-roses-SB-label-close

Four Roses Single Barrel.

Why?  Kei is the only Japanese player ever to be ranked in the ATP top 10.  Four Roses is owned by Japanese company, Kirin, who recently brought the brand back to the United States under the watchful eye of bourbon savant, Jim Rutledge.  Like Nishikori’s injury-prone nature, bourbon drinkers are keeping a watchful eye on Four Roses as Jim Rutledge recently retired.  New Master Distiller, Brent Elliott, seems to be on the right track, but Rutledge’s retirement reminds us of the importance of continuity and consistency.

 

Four Roses Single Barrel is an excellent value at around $30.  It’s the higher rye of the two four roses recipes, giving it a solid spice on the tongue. 

Rio Olympic Tennis: Andy Murray vs. Juan Martin del Potro Gold Medal Prediction Plus Nishikori vs. Nadal Prediction

Juan Martin del Potro vs. Andy Murray

Juan Martin del Potro beat Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal en route to this gold medal match.  Those two men have combined for 26 major titles.  Wouldn’t I be a fool to pick against him versus Andy Murray?  Perhaps, I am a fool.  Andy Murray has reached 6 consecutive tournament finals having posted wins in Rome, at Queen’s Club, and Wimbledon as well as runner-up finishes at Madrid and Roland Garros.  Murray has not lost a match since Ivan Lendl returned to his coaching team.  Andy Murray had the easier and earlier semifinal match.  Murray also faces del Potro in a best of 5 set match.  That is a different animal.  I think JMDP can win.  He has a huge serve and radioactive forehand.  JMDP clearly has mental toughness as well.  Still, I wonder if he will have enough stamina left to challenge Murray across potentially 5 sets.

What I think will happen: I think Andy Murray’s mobility and return of serve will force del Potro to work hard to win points.  That may begin to chip away at JMDP’s fitness given his taxing semifinal win over Rafael Nadal.  Also, Murray will try to get to the Argentine’s backhand and force delPo to hit forehands on the run.  If Murray executes this game plan he should win in 3 or 4 sets.  However, in olympic tennis it is not unheard of for a player to find reserves and execute something spectacular.  JMDP could take out the world #1 in the first round and world #2 to take the gold.

My Prediction: Andy Murray d. Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3 – I think the 3 of 5 set format plus the toll of the semifinal round will make this Murray’s match to lose.  

Confidence in my pick: moderate – Murray is playing quite well, but in olympic play who knows?


Kei Nishikori vs. Rafael Nadal

Nishikori is capable of returning serve well and keeping the ball in regions of the  court that Rafa will not enjoy.  Having said that, Nishikori did not show a lot in the semifinal round.  Maybe Rafa will be spent from his doubles gold and semifinal clash with JMDP, but Rafa has to be favored.  Nadal’s success or failure will depend on his ability to push Nishikori off of the baseline.  If Rafa serves reasonably well and keeps his ground strokes deep, he should be able to keep Nishikori from controlling court positioning.  If Nishikori can stand on the baseline and rob Nadal of time, Rafa will be in trouble.

My Prediction: Rafael Nadal d. Kei Nishikori 7-5, 6-3

Confidence in my pick: low – Rafa should win if he is not out of energy, but if Rafa is not able to push Kei backwards, it could be a long day for the Spaniard.

Rio Olympic Tennis: Men’s Semifinal Predictions

 

Rafael Nadal vs. Juan Martin del Potro

Rafa had a tough singles win followed by a long and emotional doubles win.  The big question is whether or not Rafa is drained/tired heading into this match?  I think if Rafa is close to 100% he is favored in this match.  JMDP has played quite well to reach the semifinal round including his upset win in round 1 over Novak Djokovic.  JMDP has matched up well with Rafa in the past and should handle high bounces well.  Still, Rafa seems to be in a good place so long as he is not worn out from playing 6 total sets of tennis on Friday.

My Prediction: Rafael Nadal d. Juan Martin del Potro 7-6, 6-4

Level of confidence in my pick – moderate


Their Davis Cup match earlier this year was on a much faster court

Andy Murray vs. Kei Nishikori

Each man needed a 3rd set tiebreak to reach the semifinal round.  Kei Nishikori fended off Gael Monfils and two match points in winning 7-6, 4-6, 7-6.  Murray defeated Steve Johnson by the strange scoreline of 6-0, 4-6, 7-6.  I think Murray should win this match, but he better take care of his second serve points.  Nishikori’s return matching up to a low first serve percentage from Murray would be a comparative advantage for the underdog.  I think Murray’s form will improve since he is closer to the finish line.  Murray had a relatively soft draw and expectations were on his shoulders.  Now, he faces a top 10 opponent and is one match away from winning either gold or silver.  I think that will help Murray settle into his desired form.

My Prediction: Andy Murray d. Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-3

Rio Olympic Tennis: Men’s Quarterfinal Predictions

The Elite Eight is Here!

Predicted Winners in BOLD

(3) Rafael Nadal VS Thomaz Bellucci – While we’ve been treated to any number of “Baby Fed”/”Next Federer” labels being applied to players over the years, that has not really happened with Rafa.  Bellucci is a lefty who might have been stuck with a silly moniker of that nature had his results been more steady and more high level on tour.  Instead, the athletic Brazilian lefty has long been seen as a player who didn’t quite make it.  All of that could change with a few upsets in Rio.  He would be known as a national hero if he medals in 2016.  Can he beat Rafa?  Bellucci is a long shot at best.  It should be a fun match played in front of an invested crowd.  Bellucci’s only real chance is to dictate play and try to bash Rafa off of the court a la what Fernando Verdasco did to Rafa at the Australian Open earlier this year.  Rafa will be playing for a gold medal in doubles later in the day and may be a bit distracted by that, but Nadal’s ability to concentrate has never been questioned.

(12) Steve Johnson VS (2) Andy Murray – Sock has to face Andy Murray and has a bronze medal match in doubles on Friday as well.  Murray should dominate this match.

 

(6) Gael Monfils VS (4) Kei Nishikori – Gael’s form on hard courts this summer makes me lean toward him advancing in a very intriguing match.

Juan Martin del Potro VS (10) Roberto Bautista Agut – My head says that Bautista Agut grinds out a 3 set win over Delpo.  My gut says that JMDP is riding high at the moment and his weapons will be enough to win 2 sets and advance to the semifinal round.

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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