Olympic Memories: Beijing
Published August 04, 2012 02:28
The sixth and final stop-off on wtatennis.com's trip down Olympics memory lane is the 2008 Games in Beijing, which saw a clean sweep of the medals from tennis' new world order…
Beijing, China, 2008
Olympic Green Tennis Center
For a Russian athlete there is no greater prize in sport than an Olympic gold medal. It is fitting therefore that for Elena Dementieva, so often the bridesmaid at tennis' biggest events, the site of her greatest triumph was the Beijing Games.
Eight years after announcing herself to the tennis world with an unexpected silver medal in Sydney, Dementieva went one better in Beijing - a surprise winner in a tournament full of surprises.
A regular figure at the business end of majors, Dementieva enjoyed a smooth passage through the opening rounds and into a quarterfinal with Serena Williams.
Five previous encounters with Williams had brought just one win, but in Beijing Dementieva was a woman on a mission, producing a stirring comeback to triumph in three.
Meeting her in the semifinals was compatriot Vera Zvonareva, who had taken advantage of No.1 seed Ana Ivanovic's 11th hour withdrawal to advance from the top section.
She was no match for an inspired Dementieva however, who, with the draw now shorn of many of her tormentors in chief, was not about to take her eye off the ball.
And so to the final where another Russian, Dinara Safina, was lying in wait.
Coming into the Games, Safina was in the form of her life and looking to add a golden finish to a summer that had already seen her pick up silverware in Berlin, Los Angeles and Montréal.
A round earlier Safina had dashed China's dreams of a home gold medalist by knocking out Li Na and when she took the opening set in the final it looked like she would be putting paid to her teammate's too.
Then midway through the second set, Safina began to lose her way. Whether it was magnitude of the situation playing on the mind or just an arduous summer schedule finally catching up with her is uncertain. What was certain is that it left the door ajar for a Dementieva comeback.
From then on, it was less about forehands and backhands and all about who wanted it more. There was only ever going to be one winner.
After nicking an error-strewn second set, the momentum was now with Dementieva and she was not about to hand it back. As the match edged towards the two and a half hour mark, Dementieva arrived at match point.
One crisp forehand down-the-line winner later and she sunk to her knees an Olympic champion.
"It's a huge moment for Russia," Dementieva said. "I know we were expecting and planning some medals from our team. But I don't think anyone could expect three medals."
"This is a dream for every athlete, just to be here. But to be an Olympic champion, this is the top of the career."
Olympic Memories: Athens
Olympic Memories: Sydney
Olympic Memories: Atlanta
Olympic Memories: Barcelona
Olympic Memories: Seoul