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Nadal, Dementieva take tennis singles golds at Olympics
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21:31, August 17, 2008

Incoming world number one Rafael Nadal made another huge step towards greatness when he claimed the Olympic gold medal in the men's singles on Sunday.

The title came as the icing on the cake for Nadal, who has been ranked No. 2 in the world for more than three years but will take over the No. 1 spot on Monday.

"Not in my best dreams could I have imagined this," said an ecstatic Nadal in the mixed zone.

It also means the Spaniard has a better chance to claim the Golden Slam -- four Grand Slams plus an Olympic gold medal. He now has to work on the U.S. Open and Australian Open after winning his fourth consecutive French Open title and his first Wimbledon trophy this year.

In the women's singles, fifth seed Elena Dementieva rallied to beat compatriot Dinara Safina 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in an all-Russian final.

Coming into the match with a 5-2 lead over Dementieva in career and never beaten in all three previous meetings this season, Safina could not hold on as far as she needed after the tough-minded Russian girl had played three grueling matches in 24 hours during the two previous days.

In an earlier match, Russian ninth seed Vera Zvonareva beat China's Li Na to take the bronze medal.

By doing this, Russia has become the first NOC to win all three medals in any discipline of an Olympic tennis event since Great Britain did so in the 1908 women's singles.

Venus Williams also registered a record to her name by becoming the most successful female tennis players at the Olympics on three golds.

Having won the Wimbledon doubles event last month, Venus and her younger sister Serena were barely tested before beating the Spanish pair of Anabel Medina Garrigues/Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-2, 6-0 in the women's doubles final in one hour or so.

The talented player has claimed the singles and doubles titles in Sydney 2000.

"Yeah, Sydney was fantastic, doing it for the first time, here it's also very exciting. We feel like we've contributed to our country in a huge way. That's really what it's all about."

They also became the second women's doubles team to win two gold medals in this event following compatriots Gigi Fernandez and Mary Joe Fernandez (1992 and 1996).

In the bronze play-off match, Chinese Zheng Jie and Yan Zi converted on six of all nine break points to beat sixth seeds Alona Bondarenko/Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine 6-2, 6-2 in just 75 minutes.

It is far from being good compared with the shock gold won by Li Ting/Sun Tiantian in Athens four years ago, but the result plus Li's semifinals run proved that the Chinese girls, who have been working hard during the past four years, deserve more spotlight than that in the Athens Games.

Chilean world number 15 Gonzalez, who won a gold in doubles and a bronze in singles four years ago, should also be content with the silver medal, given the dominance that Nadal has pulled out this season.

In spite of the pair splitting the previous six meetings in career, the match turned in Nadal's favor from the very start. After notching up an early break in the second game, the bull-like Spanish youngster drew the first blood at 6-3.

Gonzalez, who has won both of their matches on hardcourt, fought back into the game with his powerful forehand in the second set. He should have closed out the set when he was leading 6-5, 40-15 on Nadal's serve, but the Spaniard scored four straight points to force a tiebreak, where the Chilean was troubled by unforced errors.

Gonzalez's forehand missed target three times to give Nadal a 3-1 lead in the tiebreak and the Spaniard won it at 7-2 after another Gonzalez's long forehand.

Gonzalez lost concentration in the third set, dropping an early service game to trail 3-1 behind. Although he beat three match points in the eighth game on his own serve to stay in the run, Nadal still won it 6-3 on his fourth match point.

The Chilean created four break points but could not convert on any of them while Nadal converted on two of all his 10 break point opportunities.

Gonzalez registered 64 unforced errors to 41 from the Spaniard in the two hours and 22 minutes match.

Despite being a tennis great, Spain never claimed Olympic gold medal in the sport before the Nadal triumph. Two Spanish men have appeared in the Olympic men's singles final but both left with silver medals -- Jordi Arrese lost to Marc Rosset of Switzerland in the 1992 final and Sergi Bruguera lost in the 1996 final to American Andre Agassi.

Source: Xinhua

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1 China 33 13 12 58
2 USA 19 21 25 65
3 Great Britain 11 6 8 25
4 Germany 9 6 6 21
5 Australia 8 10 11 29
6 South Korea 8 9 5 22
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