The Insider Wrap is a recap of everything you need to know from the week that was. This week, WTA Insider looks back at the results from Tokyo 2020, where the Olympic spirit was alive and well.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Podium
Gold: Belinda Bencic, Switzerland
Silver: Marketa Vondrousova, Czech Republic
Bronze: Elina Svitolina, Ukraine
Gold: Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova, Czech Republic
Silver: Belinda Bencic & Viktorija Golubic, Czech Republic
Bronze: Laura Pigossi & Luisa Stefani, Brazil
Gold: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova & Andrey Rublev, ROC
Silver: Elena Vesnina & Aslan Karatsev, ROC
Bronze: Ashleigh Barty & John Peers, Australia
Performance of the Week: Belinda Bencic
In her Olympic debut, the World No.12 reeled off 10 wins to bring home a historic gold medal in singles for Switzerland and a silver medal in doubles. The 24-year-old defeated Jessica Pegula, Misaki Doi, Barbora Krejcikova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Elena Rybakina and Marketa Vondrousova to become the first Swiss woman to win singles gold at the Olympics. It was Switzerland's first and only other singles gold medal since Marc Rosset won in 1992.
Olympic Gold Medalist*🥇❤️🇨🇭🇨🇭🇨🇭— Belinda Bencic (@BelindaBencic) July 31, 2021
And one more Final to go tomorrow (today)💪🏽🔥 pic.twitter.com/KP6fIUUyuc
"If I end my career now without winning any additional matches, then I would still be happy," Bencic said. "What I have reached today no one can take away from me. I'm incredibly grateful for everyone who made this happen."
While Bencic may not have been on the shortlist of favorites before the Olympics, she has quietly been building toward a big result in 2021. The Olympic final was her third final of the season; her other two came on the hardcourts in Adelaide and grass last month in Berlin. Asked throughout the week about her Olympic debut, Bencic never bought into the idea of pressure and expectations. She spoke instead of the joy and honor to play for Switzerland and to have the opportunity at the Olympics, and her play throughout the week on both the singles and doubles court embodied that ethos.
"Roger [Federer] wrote to me today," Bencic said after winning singles gold. "He said this is the perfect day to reach my dreams. I was really happy about that, and he was absolutely right. He's incredible in that way. He really supports all the Swiss players – it's incredible the support I receive from Roger, and this win is for him."
Surprise of the Week: Laura Pigossi and Luisa Stefani
No story captured the spirit of the Olympics more than the Brazilian duo's surprising run to the bronze medal, the country's first Olympic tennis medal. Stefani, ranked No.23 in doubles, and Pigossi, ranked outside the Top 150, were one of the last teams to earn a spot on the Olympic roster.
“When I received the information [that I was on the Olympic entry list] I was really happy, over the moon,” Stefani said. “That was two or three days before coming here – my head was spinning, I couldn’t sleep – I was laughing, I talked with my coach. It was a feeling of euphoria.”
They may have been one of the last teams in, but they would put together a seed-slaying run that would leave them as one of the last teams standing. The unseeded Brazilians knocked off No.7 seeds Dabrowski/Fichman, Pliskova/Vondrousova, No.4 seeds Mattek-Sands/Pegula, and then saved four consecutive match points in the bronze medal game to stun Wimbledon finalists Elena Vesnina and Veronika Kudermetova, 4-6, 6-4, 11-9.
Karolina Pliksova, Petra Kvitova, Barbora Krejcikova and Marketa Vondrousova all shared an apartment together in the Tokyo Olympic Village. In the end, it would be the youngest roommate to make history for the Czech Republic in singles.
After qualifying for the final spot on the team by invoking her protected ranking, Vondrousova played like a woman with something to prove. The 2019 Roland Garros finalist ended Kiki Bertens' tennis career in the first round - the Dutch star announced the Olympics would be her final event - then ousted Naomi Osaka in the third round before routing Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-1 to become the first Czech singles player to make the gold medal match and finish with silver.
"I was thinking that [to win] two or three matches would have been great, and then I beat Naomi so then I thought that I was playing well and that maybe I could even do better," Vondrousova said.
Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova
Following Vondrousova's historic run, top-seeded Krejcikova and Siniakova also rewrote the Czech record books, becoming the first players representing the Czech Republic to win Olympic gold.
Their gold medal triumph saw them go one better than Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova (1996 Atlanta), and Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka (2016 Rio), who had previously been the most successful teams representing the Czech Republic. Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova also won silver at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul - and Miroslav Mecir won singles gold - representing Czechoslovakia.
The gold medal adds to Krejcikova and Siniakova's stellar season. They also won doubles at Roland Garros and Madrid.
The 2019 WTA Finals champion put I'm the hard yards in Tokyo. Coming off her wedding to Gael Monfils the weekend before the Olympics, Svitolina played over 14 hours of tennis to secure singles bronze and Ukraine's first Olympic tennis medal. Four of her six matches went the distance, including an opening win over Laura Siegemund that lasted over three hours, followed by wins over Ajla Tomljanovic and Maria Sakkari, needing over 2 hours and 20 minutes for each. By the time the semifinals rolled around, Svitolina was the only Top 10 player remaining.
The World No.6 was crushed to lose out to Vondrousova in the semifinals and looked ready to stop on a plane after losing the first set 6-1 to Rybakina in the bronze medal match. But her trademark fight kicked in just in time and she fought off Rybakina to win 1-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 to make sporting history for Ukraine.
There is no more crushing fate in tennis than finishing fourth at the Olympics. At least the bronze medalist finishes her tournament with a win. But fourth place means back-to-back losses with an Olympic medal on the line, making it easy to dismiss the results that came before.
Making her Olympic debut for Kazakhstan, Rybakina continued her surging level of play that began with her run to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and continued through the Eastbourne semifinals and Wimbledon Round of 16. En route to the semifinals, she did not lose a set, including a 7-5, 6-1 win over Garbiñe Muguruza.
Rybakina had her chances. In the semifinals she led by a break in the third set before Bencic stormed back and also led Svitolina 4-1 in the third in the bronze medal match. Those opportunities will sting, but all signs point to Rybakina being a force during the North American summer hardcourts.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Vesnina
It was a fantastic team event for Russia, who walked away with five medalists on the podiums. Karen Khachanov won singles silver, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev won mixed gold, and Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev won mixed silver. In fact, they came within one point of adding a sixth medalist, with Vesnina and Kudermetova narrowly losing the bronze medal doubles match.
Vesnina in particular deserves a shoutout for her stellar return to the doubles court this season. The 35-year-old has returned to competition after her maternity leave to make the Roland Garros mixed doubles final, the Wimbledon doubles final, the Olympic mixed doubles gold medal match, and the Olympics doubles bronze medal match. If a handful of points go her way - her team had match points in nearly all those matches - she would be far and away the doubles player of the year so far.
Spain may not have walked away from the women's tennis event with a medal - Pablo Carreno Busta won bronze on the men's side with wins over the No.1 and No.2 - but Garbiñe Muguruza, Paula Badosa, Carla Suárez Navarro and Sara Sorribes Tormo left their mark on Tokyo.
There's just something about wearing the red and yellow for No.47 Sorribes Tormo. She has two wins over reigning World No.1s and both have occurred at national competitions. In 2020, she handed Naomi Osaka a 6-0, 6-3 loss at the Billie Jean King Cup. In Tokyo, she knocked out Ashleigh Barty in the first round, 6-4, 6-3.
Amigas desde 2007… 2021 estamos cumpliendo un sueño… ir a unas olimpiadas representando a 🇪🇸 JUNTAS. Afortunada de estar viviendo todo esto a tu lado. No podría tener una mejor compañera. ❤️ @sara_sorribes 🤝 pic.twitter.com/Y2Ir3mmWtC— Paula Badosa (@paulabadosa) July 17, 2021
Spain's top medal hopefuls, Muguruza and Badosa, fell just short of the medal rounds. Muguruza tallied three wins to advance to the quarterfinals, losing 7-5, 6-1 to Rybakina. And Badosa continues to surge, making the quarterfinals in her Olympic debut with wins over Kristina Mladenovic, Iga Swiatek and Nadia Podoroska, but had to retire to silver medalist Vondrousova due to the heat.
Playing in her final Olympics, Suárez Navarro also pulled off an opening-round stunner, defeating Ons Jabeur 6-4, 6-1 and then pushing Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova to three sets in the second round.
Te vas de #Tokyo2020 sin metal pero con la medalla más grande de todas. Te vas con la admiración de España entera.— Comité Olímpico Español (@COE_es) July 27, 2021
Nos has dado una lección de vida, de que nunca hay que rendirse. Hay que luchar por los sueños.
Gracias, Carla. Gracias por hacer tan grande a #ElCorazónDeEspaña pic.twitter.com/QHF0o4zYet
There was never a doubt that Barty would set aside the disappointment of her opening singles loss to quickly chase a medal in doubles or mixed doubles. Wearing the green and gold means something for the World No.1 and adding a medal to Australia's medal count, regardless of discipline, would be a major source of pride. Alongside John Peers, Barty made the bronze medal mixed doubles match with wins over Argentina's Nadia Podoroska and Horacio Zeballos, and Greek standouts Maria Sakkari and Stefanos Tsitsipas, before failing to convert match point in the semifinal and losing to Pavlyuchenkova/Rublev.
Peers and Barty did not have to play for their medal with Serbia's Novak Djokovic and Nina Stojanovic withdrawing due to injury, but that won't matter to the Aussies. The medal is Australia's sixth in Olympic tennis.
7: Games lost by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova en route to the quarterfinals. This is a record for the fewest games dropped into the last eight of the women’s singles since Olympic tennis returned as a full-medal sport in 1988.
2: Women to ever sweep Olympic gold in singles and doubles: Venus Williams (2000 Sydney) and Serena Williams (2012 London).
7: Consecutive points won by Brazil's Laura Pigossi and Luisa Stefani - including 4 consecutive match points - to come back from 5-9 down in the match tiebreak to defeat Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina in the bronze medal match.
2004: The last time Australia won a medal at the tennis event. Ashleigh Barty ended that drought with her bronze medal in mixed doubles with John Peers.
3: The most matches Marketa Vondrousova has won at a single tournament this season. The silver medalist won 5 in Tokyo.
And Olympic Silver Medalists☺️🥈🇨🇭 Memories Forever pic.twitter.com/oIBqxpWrn8— Belinda Bencic (@BelindaBencic) August 1, 2021
Quote of the Week: Gold and Silver medalist Belinda Bencic
"To share this with Viki is unbelievable. The whole week I never felt like I was in a normal tournament or playing alone. She was alongside me the entire way. I always tell her we won this gold medal together as well.
"When we will be 80 years old and have a coffee, we will talk about these moments and I cannot wait for that."