By Randy Walker
Venus and Serena Williams are without question the poster children for Olympic tennis.
The sisters guaranteed that they would both become the most decorated U.S. tennis Olympians in history with four medals with their 7-5, 6-4 semifinal win Saturday over Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova of Russia at the All England Club at Wimbledon.
Prior to the 2012 Olympics, Mary Joe Fernandez and Vincent Richards were tied with Venus Williams with three total medals. Fernandez, the 2012 U.S. women’s Olympic coach, won two gold medals in women’s doubles in 1992 and 1996 (with Gigi Fernandez) and she also won bronze in singles in 1992. Vincent Richards won three medals at the 1924 Olympics – gold in singles and doubles and silver in mixed doubles.
The Williams sisters have each won two doubles gold (2000, 2008) and each have a singles gold medal (Venus in 2000, Serena in 2012) and now they are guaranteed at least another silver in women’s doubles, giving them a total four total medals. If they win gold in women’s doubles Sunday against the Czech team of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, they will become the first tennis players in history from any country to win four gold medals. Only Kitty McKane of Britain, who won one gold, two silver and two bronze medals for five medals total, has won more Olympic medals than the Williams sisters. They are to Olympic tennis what Michael Phelps is to Olympic swimming.
In men’s doubles, another set of siblings – Bob and Mike Bryan – won Olympic gold in the men’s doubles for the United States, winning their second Olympic medal as an upgrade from the bronze medal won at the 2008 Beijing Games. The identical twins defeated the French team of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Michael Llodra 6-4, 7-6 (2). The win also completed a “Career Golden Grand Slam” for the twins, who have also won five Australian Open, one French Open, two Wimbledon and three US Open titles in men’s doubles. Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet won bronze, also for France, defeating Feliciano Lopez and David Ferrer of Spain 7-6 (4), 6-2.
In mixed doubles, Britain’s Andy Murray and Laura Robson continued a magical run through the mixed doubles tournament, reaching the final with two victories in decisive match tie-breakers on Saturday. The British duo beat the Australian pair of Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Stosur 6-3, 3-6, (10-8) and then the German pair of Chris Kas and Sabine Lisicki 6-,1, 6-7 (7), (10-7). They will face the No. 1 seeds Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi of Belarus in Sunday’s final. Murray will be guaranteed of two medals as he also plays Roger Federer in the men’s singles gold medal match Sunday.
This year marked the return of the mixed doubles competition to the Olympic fold after an absence of 88 years. Tennis as a whole was absent for 64 years from the Olympic program from 1924 to 1988, but was one of the original sports played at the first modern Games in 1896.