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Tennis

Nadal and Lopez win gold for Spain over Romania, Americans bronze

As if winning his 800th singles match wasn’t enough history for one day, Rafael Nadal added to his immense legacy on Friday, teaming with Marc Lopez to win the men’s doubles gold medal match for Spain, defeating Romania’s Horia Tecau and Florin Mergea, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.

Nadal and Lopez, two-time Indian Wells champions together, looked to be cruising after a dominant first set, except the Romanians began heavily targeting Lopez, who lost confidence in the process, in the second set and turned the tide. An extremely tense (and intense) deciding third set followed, with Lopez and Mergea both tight as a drum.

Between a marathon game won by Romania for 2-all and a love break of Lopez’s serve, Mergea and Tecau were just two games from the gold but Nadal refused to be denied as Spain got back on serve by breaking a nervy Mergea.

Nadal had a tough service game at 4-all, countering uncharacteristic backhand errors with clutch body serves to hold. On Tecau’s serve, Lopez came through with an excellent return at Tecau’s feet to deliver two match points, only for the Romanians to save them both. Nerves came into play to finish as Mergea missed not one, but two smashes to end the match.

Nadal becomes just the second man (Nicolas Massu) and the fourth player overall (Serena and Venus Williams) to have won both singles and doubles gold, pairing this with his singles gold from 2008 and potentially a second on Sunday. Lopez, 34, continues a banner year, adding to his first Grand Slam from the French Open.

In the bronze medal match, Americans Jack Sock and Steve Johnson beat Canadians Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil. Sock and Pospisil recently split as doubles partners, perhaps explaining their icy post-match handshake. A legend in Canada, Nestor, 43, will unfortunately retire without an Olympic medal. (EDIT: To be clear, Nestor won gold in 2000, but this is surely his final Olympics.)

Over in the women’s doubles, Switzerland’s Martina Hingis and Timea Bacsinszky saved match points to beat 2012 Czech silver medalists Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. In the other semi, Kate Makarova and Elena Vesnina of Russia took out the other Czech team, Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova.

In mixed, both American teams (Venus Williams/Rajeev Ram, Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Jack Sock) are into the semis, while Andy Murray and Heather Watson lost to Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna.

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