Spain's Nadal and Lopez win gold in men's doubles

Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez of Spain pose with their gold medals. (Reuters)

Rafa Nadal and Marc Lopez of Spain won the Olympic men's doubles tennis title on Friday, beating Romania's Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau to secure their country's third gold medal of the Rio Games.

Nadal and Lopez beat the Romanians 6-2 3-6 6-4, while American duo Steve Johnson and Jack Sock beat Canada's Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil 6-2 6-4 to clinch bronze.

The doubles win sets up Nadal for a potential golden sweep in the men's tennis events at the Rio Games as he is still alive in the singles draw.

Nadal, who won the singles gold in Beijing and skipped the 2012 London Games due to a knee injury, will play Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro in a semi-final clash on Saturday.

Nadal and Lopez claimed Spain's fifth overall medal so far, following others in swimming, canoe slalom and weightlifting.

The grueling match that lasted 2 hours and 26 minutes was a challenge for Nadal who has had an exhausting schedule and cited fatigue when he pulled out of the mixed doubles on Thursday.

Nadal has struggled with a wrist injury this year and the left-hander, more known for his sweeping ground stokes than the serve and volley play typical of doubles, arrived in Rio having not played since withdrawing from the French Open in May.

Tecau and Mergea, both 31 years old, are doubles specialists and each rank among the world's top 15 male doubles players.

Singles

London Olympic champion Andy Murray reached the semi-finals of the men's tennis on Friday after winning a third-set tie-break to scrape through a testing encounter against American Steve Johnson.

Spain's Rafa Nadal also secured a spot in the semi-finals with a hard fought victory against local favorite Thomaz Belucci of Brazil, rallying back after losing the first set.

Britain's Murray, the world number two, edged into the last four with a 6-0 4-6 7-6(2) victory but was pushed to the limit by the 22nd-ranked Johnson.

The players traded service breaks and blazing passing shots in the final set but Murray showed steady nerves to win the tie-break, closing out the match with a deftly placed overhead smash.

"It was a very tough match and I just managed to turn it around in the end," Murray told reporters. "For me it has nothing to do with having won the gold in London. For me it's about trying to win more medals for the country and the team."

Murray will face Japan's Kei Nishikori who edged out France's Gael Monfils 7-6(4) 4-6 7-6(6) in a tense third set tie-break after facing repeated match points.

Nadal, ranked fifth in the world, was tested by No. 54-ranked Belucci in a center court stadium filled with passionate Brazilian fans, but found his rhythm in the final two sets, to clinch the 2-6 6-4 6-2 victory.

"The atmosphere was tough, but at the same time I enjoy it," Nadal told reporters. "I managed to come back in some tough situations."

Nadal will take on Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro, who advanced with a 7-5 7-6(4) win over Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut, drawing enthusiastic chants from rafters packed with blue-and-white clad fans from neighboring Argentina.

 

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