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Subject:  Miracle on Hard Court Date:  8/22/2004  9:43 PM
Author:  path40a Number:  451 of 1738

Chalk this up as another "weird stuff happens in the Olympics" moment. Like our country's famous Miracle on Ice in the 1980 Winter Olympics, our team winning the gold medal by defeating the unbeatables in hockey (though we did have home court advantage;-) ... this tops even that!

Chile, a country that up until these games had won a grand total of two silver medals (in two different Equestrian events at the Helsinki games 52 years ago) in it's history, won BOTH men's gold medals and a bronze in tennis! This is incredible, by itself, but there are several facts you may not know which make the accomplishment unbelievable:

- almost all the top players were entered in the event including Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Carlos Moya, & Juan Carlos Ferrero in singles as well as the Bryan brothers & virtually all the best doubles players in the sport
- Chile had Nicolas Massu (seeded 14th) and Fernando Gonzalez (seeded 20th) in singles, entered together (unseeded) in doubles
- Massu has NEVER made it past the 3rd round in a major tournament in 7 years on the tour
- Gonzalez has only made it to a major's quarterfinals twice in his 5 years on the tour
- neither Massu nor Gonzalez have EVER made it past the first round (they've never won a match!) in doubles in a major tournament in their careers (and I don't think they've ever played with each other as partners before either, though I couldn't verify this)

So, what did they do? They both made it to the semifinals in singles, Gonzalez knocking off #2 Roddick & Massu beating #4 Moya, and they teamed up to make it to the doubles finals, beating #1 Bryan brothers along the way. In the semifinals, both Chileans faced Americans, Massu winning in straight sets against Taylor Dent but Gonzalez losing in three hard fought sets to Mardy Fish.

Saturday, the first match of the day was the bronze medal match between Gonzalez and Dent. After splitting the first two sets in a little less than 90 minutes, the two battled more than two hours in the 3rd set before Gonzalez secured the bronze 16 games to 14! This match was followed by the women's final, won by Justine Henin-Hardenne (successfully returning to competition after a viral infection had kept her out of tennis since May) in less than 90 minutes. That match was followed by the doubles final pitting Massu and an exhausted Gonzalez against the German team.

After winning the first set 6-2, Massu-Gonzalez lost the next two sets in the best of five final. Now past midnight in Athens, the Chileans rallied to win the fourth set 7-6 (9-7 in the tiebreaker) and fifth set 6-4. This means Gonzalez was on the court more than 7 hours that day winning the singles bronze medal then, with Massu, the doubles gold medal!

But wait, that's not all yet. Massu, who got off the court at 2:45 AM Athens time, had to get to bed and prepare for the final against a well-rested Mardy Fish in the finals later THAT SAME DAY (earlier today)!

Massu stormed to a 5-0 lead, somehow, in the first set before fading and showing signs of cramping as he "limped" to a 6-3 first set win. Fish got things going and won the next two sets in the best of five gold medal match. Down 2 sets to 1, Massu rallied to win the fourth and fifth sets, in a match which lasted 4+ hours, to win the gold medal!

FYI, Chili is a country with a population of less than 16 million people. This is what's great about the Olympic Games, almost anything can happen. It's stories like this, even though I would have loved for the Americans to have walked away with more than just the silver medal, that do it for me. I hope Bud Greenspan was nearby with cameras rolling;-)

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