Getty Images

Nadal, Lopez win Olympic tennis men’s doubles for Spain

Leave a comment

RIO DE JANEIRO- Rafael Nadal added a second Olympic tennis gold medal to all of those Grand Slam trophies, teaming with Marc Lopez to win the men’s doubles championship for Spain at the Rio de Janeiro Games.

Nadal and Lopez came back from a break down in the third set and claimed the last three games to beat Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau of Romania 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in the final Friday.

Nadal, a 14-time champion at major tournaments, also won an Olympic title in singles at the 2008 Beijing Games. This is the first medal for Lopez.

The silver for Mergea and Tecau is the first tennis medal for Romania in Olympic history.

The bronze went to Steve Johnson and Jack Sock of the United States. They beat the Canadian team of Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil 6-2, 6-4 earlier Friday.

Sock and Pospisil won the Wimbledon doubles championship together in 2014.

It was another busy day for Nadal, who won his singles quarterfinal in three sets earlier Friday.

Nadal does not play doubles often on tour, focusing on a singles career that has included stints at No. 1 in the rankings and a record nine French Open titles. Of his nine previous doubles championships, four came with Lopez as his partner, although they hadn’t played even one match together this year until arriving in Brazil.

Lopez won his first Grand Slam doubles title at the French Open in June, pairing with Feliciano Lopez – they’re not related – to beat American twins Bob and Mike Bryan in that final.

On Friday, the Romanians appeared to get the upper hand when they broke Marc Lopez to lead 4-3 in the final set. Lopez double-faulted to love-40, then hit a mediocre lob. Tecau’s overhead was netted by Nadal.

But in the very next game, with Tecau serving, the Spanish duo broke right back. Mergea sailed a forehand long to set up a break point, then put a volley into the net, making it 4-all.

After Nadal held for a 5-4 edge, the Spaniards broke again, converting their third match point when Mergea sent an overhead long.

Nadal and Lopez, both near the baseline, dropped their rackets and fell to the court, staying down for a few moments to enjoy the victory.

After the winners got up and shook hands with their opponents and the chair umpire, Nadal pulled Lopez in for a big hug.

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

Azarenka aims to come back in time for Wimbledon

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MOSCOW — Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka says she is planning to return to competition before Wimbledon.

Azarenka, who was ranked No. 1 for seven months in 2012 and 2013, went on a break last July to have her first child. She had previously been targeting a return at the July 31-Aug. 6 Bank of the West Classic in California.

In a statement on Twitter, the Belarusian says “my training has been progressing well and I feel ready to start competing,” adding that she plans “to play one of the grass court events prior to Wimbledon.”

Wimbledon starts July 3.

Azarenka won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, and has twice reached the Wimbledon semifinals.

Djokovic announces Agassi will coach him at French Open

Getty Images
Leave a comment

ROME —¬†Novak Djokovic is joining forces with Andre Agassi in an effort to return to No. 1.

Djokovic announced Sunday that Agassi will coach him at the French Open, which starts next Sunday.

“I spoke to Andre the last couple weeks on the phone, and we decided to get together in Paris,” Djokovic said. “So he’s going to be there. We’ll see what (the) future brings.

“We are both excited to work together and see where it takes us. We don’t have any long-term commitment. It’s just us trying to get to know each other in Paris a little bit,” Djokovic added. “He will not stay the whole tournament. He’s going to stay only to a certain time, and then we’ll see after that what’s going to happen.”

The second-ranked Djokovic split with longtime coach Marian Vajda and two other team members – fitness coach Gebhard Phil Gritsch, and physiotherapist Miljan Amanovic – at the start of the month.

Agassi, who retired in 2006, won eight Grand Slam titles.

Djokovic has won 12 Grand Slams.

“Andre is someone that I have tremendous respect for as a person and as a player,” Djokovic said. “He has been through everything that I’m going through. On the court he understands the game amazingly well. I am enjoying every conversation that I have with him.

“But also, on the other hand, he’s someone that nurtures the family values, philanthropy work. He’s a very humble man, is very educated. He’s a person that can contribute to my life on and off the court a lot. I’m very excited to see what is ahead of us.”

The pairing is the latest in a series of top players working with former standouts, from Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl, Rafael Nadal and Carlos Moya, and Kei Nishikori and Michael Chang.

Djokovic was coached by Boris Becker the last three seasons, but they split last year.

Vajda started working with Djokovic in 2006.

Djokovic lost his No. 1 ranking to Andy Murray last year after a slump in form following his French Open triumph.

He lost in the third round at Wimbledon, his earliest defeat in a Grand Slam in seven years, lost in the first round at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, reached the final of the U.S. Open, and lost early again at the Australian Open.

Djokovic finished 2016 at No. 2, his current ranking. He’s won only one of his last 11 tournaments.

While Agassi has not coached a top player before, Djokovic said his record as a player and spokesman of the game was enough to convince him.

“He’s a legend of our sport,” Djokovic said. “He’s made a mark in this sport forever. He’s won everything there is to win in tennis.

“He was a revolutionary player because he had this charisma, he had this approach to tennis and to life that was quite different from others. That’s why he was so interesting.”

Agassi has already been offering advice on the phone.

“He’s been definitely following up closely all the matches, the big matches, especially on the TV,” Djokovic said. “So he knows players, he knows everyone that I was playing against in (the) last couple of weeks, so we talked before every match.

Djokovic added, “I already feel like we are very kind of close to each other and creating this nice vibe.”