Rafael Nadal will celebrate his rise to the top of the world on Monday as the new Olympic champion after a straight sets victory over Chilean Fernando Gonzalez in Beijing today.
The irresistible Spaniard triumphed 6-3 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 to secure another high point in his remarkable season and send him off to the US Open in style as he bids to claim his third Grand Slam crown in a row.
Nadal, who will finally overtake Roger Federer as world number one when the next ATP rankings are announced, got off to a flying start when he broke Gonzalez in his first service game of the match, and that was enough to take the first set.
But Gonzalez, who claimed doubles gold with partner Nicolas Massu four years ago, hit back in a tight second set full of ferocious baseline rallies and fashioned two set points on the Nadal serve at 6-5.
However, two forehand errors allowed the Spaniard to squirm out of trouble and after Nadal blazed through the tie-break 7-2, there was never likely to be any way back for the big-hitting Chilean.
Having saved a break point in his first service game of the third set, Gonzalez succumbed to love in the next. A gutsy effort from the Chilean to break back came to nothing, and Nadal served out and marched relentlessly on.
Elena Dementieva called her women’s singles final victory over Russian compatriot Dinara Safina “the best thing that’s happened to me in my life and career.”
Dementieva overcame a familiar attack of nerves to end Safina’s 15-match winning streak and triumph 3-6 7-5 6-3. Vera Zvonareva’s 6-0 7-5 bronze win over China’s Li Na ensured Russia a clean sweep.
Dementieva said: “To win a gold medal is unbelievable. I have been dreaming of this moment since I was eight years old. I don’t even want to think about the US Open. I want to enjoy this moment.”
Her win gave Dementieva a second Olympic medal, having claimed silver in Sydney in 2000. Safina had won all three of the pair’s previous meetings this year.
Safina looked on course for her third consecutive title when she breezed through the first set but fell behind in the second and despite fighting back well, lost the set by netting a backhand.
Dementieva was always on top in the decider but just when it looked like her nerves would let her down again she rallied, breaking in a marathon game for 5-3 then winning the tie with a clubbing two-handed backhand down the line.
Venus and Serena Williams teamed up to win the women’s doubles with a surprisingly easy 6-2 6-0 win over Spain’s Anabel Medina-Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual.
Afterwards Venus said: “It does mean more to me to share this kind of moment with my sister. It’s just amazing to think we could participate and bring home the gold medal.”
China did manage to claim a tennis medal when Yan Zi and Zheng Jie defeated Ukraine’s Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko 6-2 6-2 to win the women’s doubles bronze medal play-off.