Monday, August 23, 2004

Hail Nicolas Massu!

The hot Chile pepper, as one headline writer called him, won the Olympic gold medal in men's tennis singles after going through a physical ordeal that was amazing to watch. Massu first defeated Gustavo Kuerten, Vince Spadea, Igor Andreev, Carlos Moya, and Taylor Dent. In the meantime, he and his doubles partner, Fernando Gonzales, advanced to the doubles final, which they won. Gonazales had to have been exhausted, since he had just won the bronze medal singles match, which also lasted over 3 hours.

The doubles match, a 4-set thriler, ended at 2:40 a.m, 3 hours and 43 mintes after it began. On Sunday, Massu played a 5-set, 4-hour match against Mardy Fish and collected his second gold medal. This feat, similar to what Cara Black did at Wimbledon, is Olympic indeed.

Tennis was one of the original games in the modern Olympics, but was eliminated for decades because of a scheduling conflict with Wimbledon. Re-introduced in 1988, it has yet to gain the respect that it deserves. The Athens Olympic games were filled with exciting tennis upsets, including a women's doubles gold medal win by a team from China. (In the past, players could play with their regular doubles partners, no matter what country each was from, but now there is a rule requiring same-country pairings, thus making doubles more difficult for some long-time teams). Justine Henin-Hardenne made her comeback from illness by winning a gold medal, and the great Martina Navratilova, though she was eliminated from doubles competition, thrilled the crowd with her presence, a first for the Olympics.

It would be nice if the news media promoted Olympic tennis and showed more of it on television, but for now--16 years after its re-introduction--it is the Olympic stepchild.

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