RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - In a thrilling encounter between two tough American teams, Bethanie Mattek-Sands partnered Jack Sock to take out four-time gold medalist Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram, 6-7(3), 6-1, 10-7 and win gold in mixed doubles of the Olympic tennis event.
"I'm still pretty emotional," Mattek-Sands said after the match. "I think, going into this final, we knew the American national anthem was going to be played either way, but I was actually kind of surprised I was so emotional. It's my first Olympics, first time being up on the podium. It's hard to describe it in words, but I'm so excited having this guy next to me, we played awesome. It was a lot of fun this whole week."
After disappointing results in singles and doubles with sister and fellow four-time Olympic Gold medalist Serena Williams, Venus and Ram were late additions to the mixed doubles squad and played incredible tennis to reach the final. With Venus hoping to become the first tennis player to win gold medals in all three disciplines, they took the first set over Mattek-Sands and Sock, a team playing their first Olympic Games.
But Mattek-Sands and Sock are experienced doubles players in their own right, each a former Grand Slam champion in mixed doubles. Roaring through the second set, they recovered from a 3-6 deficit in the match tie-break to clinch the gold medal.
? Nick McCarvel (@NickMcCarvel) August 14, 2016
"I was feeling pretty down and out after singles, but I just wanted to enjoy the experience and get the most out of it," said Sock, who fought off a bout of walking pneumonia to win medals in mixed and men's doubles with Steve Johnson. "To come away with two medals, one being gold, I'm speechless. It's a surreal moment for both of us.
"I had a blast with Bethanie all week; she definitely carried me through every match, but it was a ton of fun and it's going to be something I have with Bethanie for the rest of our lives."
Overcoming multiple injuries in the latter part of her career, Mattek-Sands was understandably emotional in her post-match interview.
"After a couple of hip surgeries and all of the months I've been out where you're watching all of this happen on TV. Standing on the podium, I was just thinking of everything I've gone through to be here."
Gracious in defeat, Venus nonetheless took home her fifth Olympic medal in her fifth Olympic appearance, and took great pride in being part of an all-American Gold medal match.
"It's been an honor to play at so many Olympic Games. We've had a blast this whole tournament and it was awesome to see two US teams on the podim. We're just on Cloud 9 today."
Ram echoed his partner's sentiment.
"It's fantastic. To play the final against our teammates, it was a great match and they were just a little better than us. It was just an unbelievable experience to play with Venus at the Olympics and get a medal."
? ITF Olympic Tennis (@OlympicsTennis) August 14, 2016