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BEIJING 2008 : TENNIS

Nadal slips into final with help

August 16, 2008|Bill Dwyre | Times Staff Writer

BEIJING -- On an eventful Friday that went well into the wee hours of this morning at the Olympic Tennis Complex, the lone constant seemed to be Rafael Nadal.

The Spaniard will become No. 1 in the world Monday, ending Roger Federer's four-year run. And by then, he may be an Olympic champion.

Nadal won the French Open and Wimbledon, and will head from here to New York, where he'll seek a third straight title at the U.S. Open.

Right now, Nadal's sights are on a gold medal, thanks in part to an uncharacteristic mistake by the world's No. 3, Serbia's Novak Djokovic. On Nadal's second match point, Djokovic hit a big overhead that Nadal somehow retrieved and popped just over the net. Djokovic closed on it and, inexplicably, hit it wide.

Nadal collapsed on his back in surprise and joy, winning 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.

Nadal's opponent in Sunday's final will be Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, who outlasted James Blake of the United States, 4-6, 7-5, 11-9, and created much controversy afterward with Blake's statement that Gonzalez failed to admit when a ball hit his racket and instead took the point.

Blake's bronze-medal match against Djokovic was to be today.

There could also be a gold medal in Federer's future. In doubles.

The Swiss superstar teamed with Stanislas Wawrinka to knock out the top-seeded American team of Bob and Mike Bryan. The score was 7-6 (6), 6-4, a surprise given that Federer seldom plays doubles.

That meant that Federer, after twice failing in previous Olympics to win a medal and also failing in singles when Blake took him out Thursday, finally will get his Olympic medal. The color was to be determined today against Simon Aspelin and Thomas Johansson of Sweden, who beat Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra of France, 7-6 (6), 4-6, 19-17.

The Bryans were to play Clement and Arnaud for the bronze today as well.

Still in the running for gold were the Williams sisters, who got into a semifinal today in doubles with a 6-4, 6-0 ouster of Russians Vera Zvonareva and Elena Vesnina. Venus and Serena were upset in singles Thursday night, but two more doubles wins here will give them each their second gold in Olympic doubles, the first coming in 2000 in Sydney.

Failing in her attempt for another medal was Lindsay Davenport of Newport Beach, who won a singles gold at Atlanta and teamed in doubles here with Leizel Huber. Spain's Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Pascual Ruano beat the Americans, 5-7, 7-6 (6), 8-6, Thursday night.

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bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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