25 of the Most Surprising Tennis Runs in Olympic History
Every once in a while, the underdog has his day. That is what makes sports special—witnessing the unexpected hero burst across the finish line or watching some Division II team knock off Alabama.
It is almost equally as exciting to watch an extended winning streak, waiting for that team or that player to finally lose. Sometimes the streak can last over more than one season.
In tennis, most tend to expect the top seeds to be standing at the end of a tournament. Seeing Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic in the final is no big surprise. The seeding process tries to ensure that this happens. Naturally, tournament officials want the best players to last to the quarterfinal, semifinal and final rounds.
This has not always been the case for tennis at the Olympics, especially in the men's draw. In 1992 and 2004, most of the top male seeds were sent packing very early. Those losses paved the way for many surprise finishes during those years.
While 2012 promises a more traditional ending with most of the top seeds surviving, prior years offered lesser-known tennis players an opportunity to do something unexpected—medal at the Summer Olympics.
Following are the best of 25 surprising runs at the Summer Games. Some are based on an unexpected player making it to the final rounds, while others listed are based on the length and duration of winning streaks over consecutive Olympic seasons.
1. Fernando Meligeni in 1996: Semifinal Finish
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Fernando Meligeni of Brazil entered the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta as an alternate, replacing a player who withdrew before competition got underway.
Meligeni turned pro in 1990, finally retiring in 2003. A lefty, Meligeni climbed to a career high ranking of 25 which he reached in 1999.
He remained unseeded in the 1996 draw in Atlanta. His first-round opponent was Stefano Pescosolido of Italy. Meligeni defeated him 6-4, 6-2.
After that match, the draws got a little more difficult. The Brazilian’s second-round opponent was the No. 6 seed Albert Costa of Spain. Meligeni, however, played a tough match that he won 7-6, 6-4, sending the Spaniard home.
The next opponent was the big-serving Mark Philippoussis of Australia who lost to the Brazilian 7-6, 4-6, 8-6.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Meligeni marched on to the quarterfinals where wild-card Russian Andrei Olhovskiy awaited. The Russian was dispatched 6-7, 7-5, 6-3.
Meligeni ran out of gas in the semifinals, where Sergi Bruguera of Spain ended his run 7-6, 6-2.
The losses continued as the Brazilian also lost in the bronze-medal match to Leander Paes of India.
No one expected the Brazilian to perform so well. He was thrilled to have advanced as far as he did in 1996.
2. Jelena Dokic in 2000: Semifinal Finish
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Jelena Dokic of Australia held an obvious advantage in Sydney since the Olympics were being held in her backyard, so to speak. Even so, no one expected much from the Aussie against such stern competition, except Dokic herself.
Unseeded Dokic advanced into the second round by eliminating the No. 14 seed Ai Sugiyama of Japan 6-0, 7-6.
In the second round, the Aussie dismissed Rita Grande of Italy 5-7, 6-3, 6-3, sending Dokic into the third round to face Rossana de los Rios. The Aussie sent the lady from Paraguay home 7-6, 7-5.
In the quarterfinals, Dokic met and defeated the No. 7 seed Amanda Coetzer of South Africa 6-1,1-6, 6-1 in an oddly symmetrical match.
In the semifinals, Dokic’s opponent was the No. 10 seed Elena Dementieva of Russia. This is where Dokic’s run ended. Dementieva won the match 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Dokic would also lose the bronze-medal match to the No. 3 seed Monica Seles.
Still, for Dokic, the run at the Summer Games in Sydney offered excitement and promise.
3. Taylor Dent in 2004: Semifinal Finish
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Taylor Dent of the United States had an amazing run during the 2004 Olympics in Athens, starting in the first round when he met and defeated Frederic Niemeyer of Canada 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.
Dent marched on to the second round.
There Dent defeated Slovakian Dominik Hrbaty 7-6, 6-3 and followed that victory with a third-round win over Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia 6-4, 6-4.
Dent's quarterfinal opponent was Czech Tomas Berdych, who’d upset the No. 1 seed, Roger Federer, in the second round.
Pushing Berdych aside 6-4, 6-1 in their quarterfinal match, Dent advanced to the semifinals.
There the American lost to eventual gold medalist Nicolas Massu of Chile 6-7, 1-6.
Dent would also lose the consolation bronze-medal match to another Chilean, Fernando Gonzalez.
4. Roger Federer 2000: Semifinal Finish
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In the year 2000, Roger Federer entered the field in Sydney unseeded. He was still a teenager at the time, and this was his first time to play in the Olympics.
In the first round, Federer defeated David Prinosil of Germany 6-2, 6-2. In the second round, the Swiss won over Karol Kucera of Slovakia 6-4, 7-6.
His opponent in the third round was Mikael Tillstrom of Sweden—Federer defeated him 6-1, 6-2. Finally, in the quarterfinals, the Swiss upended Karim Alami Morocco 7-6, 6-1.
Federer was in the semifinals of the Summer Games in Sydney. His next opponent was German Tommy Haas.
The match with Haas marked the end of Federer's run as the German upended the young Swiss 6-3, 6-2.
Federer also lost the consolation bronze-medal match to Arnaud Di Pasquale of France 7-6, 6-7, 6-3.
Coming so close to a medal just whetted the appetite of the Swiss, who is now trying for the fourth time to medal in men’s singles.
5. Li Na in 2008: Semifinal Finish
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Li Na of China began the 2008 Summer Olympics unseeded.
With the Olympics being played in her home country, Li wished to do well, naturally. The Olympics were very special for the nation of China as it hosted the Games for the first time.
Li started well, defeating the No. 3 seed Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6, 6-4, advancing to the second round to face Ayumi Morita of Japan.
Spurred on by her first win, Li defeated Morita 6-2, 7-5. In the third round, Li defeated Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 4-6, 6-2, 6-0.
That sent the lady from China into the semifinals to face the great Venus Williams, the No. 7 seed. But Venus proved to be no match for Li Na that day as she fell 5-7, 5-7.
Li Na had made it to the semifinals, where her opponent was the lanky lady from Russia, the No. 2 seed Dinara Safina. This time, Li could not overcome the power game of Safina, and she lost 6-7, 5-7.
In the bronze medal match, moreover, Li came up short against another Russian Vera Zvonareva 6-0, 7-5.
Still Li Na's run was greatly appreciated by the citizens of her nation.
6. Brad Gilbert in 1988: Bronze Finish
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1988 was the first year tennis was reinstated at the Summer Olympics. Most of the top-ranked male players did not travel to Seoul to compete. There were, however, several very fine competitors hoping to medal in tennis that summer.
Among them was Brad Gilbert of the United States, who was seeded No. 5 in Seoul but whose world ranking was No.15 at the start of the Olympics.
Gilbert began his Olympic run by defeating Michael Tauson of Denmark 6-2, 7-5, 6-1.
In the second round, Gilbert had a little more opposition facing Russian Andrei Cherkasov of Russia but defeated him 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, 6-2.
This sent the American into the third round where he met and defeated doubles specialist Robert Seguso of the United States. Seguso fell in straight sets 6-2, 6-1, 6-2.
In the quarterfinals, Gilbert’s opponent was the No. 13 seed Martin Jaite of Argentina. Extended to four sets, Gilbert prevailed 5-7, 6-1, 7-6, 6-3. Gilbert was moving on to the semifinals.
There the American lost for the first time to the No. 2 seed Tim Mayotte of the United States 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
Brad Gilbert, along with Swede Stefan Edberg, won a bronze medal.
In 1988, the semifinal losers did not play a consolation match to determine who was the third-place finisher. Therefore, both players went home toting a bronze medal for their efforts.
7. Leander Paes in 1996: Bronze Finish
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Leander Paes of India made an unexpected run in men’s singles at the 1996 Summer Olympics played in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Long noted for his prowess in doubles, Paes showed his skill in playing in men’s singles.
He began his journey to the semifinals by first defeating Richey Reneberg of the United States, 6-7, 7-6, 1-0 (Reneberg retired).
In the second round, Paes defeated Nicolas Pereira of Venezuela 6-2, 6-3. The win sent him into the third round to face the No. 3 seed Thomas Enqvist of Sweden. Paes won that encounter 7-5, 7-6 .
In the quarterfinals, the Indian skirted past the No. 12 seed, Italy’s Renzo Furlan, 6-1, 7-5. This meant Paes would meet the No. 1 seed Andre Agassi in the semifinals.
At that point, Paes’ run ended as he lost 6-7, 3-6 to Agassi, who went on to win the gold medal.
Paes fought once more to win the bronze medal in a contest with Fernando Meligeni of Brazil.
Paes held on to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. The bronze medal was his prize.
8. Arnaud Di Pasquale 2000: Bronze Finish
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Frenchman Arnaud Di Pasquale played in the 2004 Summer Olympics as a relatively unknown and unseeded player in the men’s draw.
His first opponent was Nicolas Kiefer of Germany, seeded No. 9. After Di Pasquale won his first match 6-4, 6-3, the Frenchman moved on to face Vladimir Voltchkov of Belarus—defeating him 6-2, 6-2.
That meant Di Pasquale would meet the No. 3 seed Swede Magnus Norman in the third round. It was a very competitive 7-6, 7-6 victory over the Swede.
In the quarterfinals, the Frenchman faced Juan Carlos Ferrero, seeded No. 8. In a very low scoring match, Di Pasquale emerged with a win, 6-2, 6-1.
In the semifinal match, Di Pasquale would find his run nearing an end as he lost 6-4, 6-4 to Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov.
But then the Frenchman came back to down Roger Federer 6-7, 7-6, 6-3 to win a bronze medal. In all, it was a very surprising and rewarding tournament for the Frenchman.
9. Alicia Molik in 2004: Bronze Finish
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Alicia Molik of Australia was unseeded at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. No one expected much from the Aussie once the draw was announced.
Her first opponent was the No. 4 seed Elena Dementieva of Russia. After all, Dementieva was the silver medal winner at the last Olympics in Sydney.
After a slow start, Molik took off to win 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 over the Russian, advancing to the second round. There the Aussie defeated Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia 7-5, 6-4.
In the third round, Molik sent American Lisa Raymond out of the singles competition 6-4, 6-3.
Finally reaching the quarterfinals, Molik played the No. 8 seed Ai Sugiyama of Japan, winning 6-3, 6-4.
The Aussie’s run took her to the semifinals where she faced the No. 2 seed Amelie Mauresmo.
Finally Molik lost 6-7, 3-6.
But the Aussie advanced to win the bronze medal, defeating Anastasia Myskina the No. 3 seed. Not a bad ending for Molik.
10. Sergi Bruguera in 1996: Silver Finish
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Sergi Bruguera was another unseeded player at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Even so, the Spaniard made it all the way to the gold-medal match, working his way through a difficult draw.
His first opponent was Andrei Pavel from Romania, a wild-card entry who was also unseeded but dangerous. Bruguera won 2-6, 6-1, 8-6.
In the second round, the Spaniard met and defeated the No. 7 seed, Arnaud Boetsch of France, 7-6, 4-6, 6-2 to advance to the third round.
Bruguera next found himself on the opposite side of the net from Brit Greg Rusedski. Their first set was very competitive with Bruguera winning it in a tiebreak, going on to win the match 7-6, 6-3.
In the quarterfinals, the Spaniard defeated the No. 4 seed MaliVai Washington 7-6, 4-6, 7-5, allowing Brueguera to reach the semifinals to meet the Brazilian Fernando Meligeni.
The two battled 7-6, 6-2 with Bruguera moving on to the gold-medal round.
Agassi won the gold 6-2, 6-3, 6-1, but Bruguera came away with a silver medal, which was a grand prize not expected when the Spaniard began his medal quest.
11. Mardy Fish in 2004: Silver Finish
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American Mardy Fish arrived in Athens ready to do battle unseeded in the 2004 Summer Games.
His first round opponent was Swede Jonas Bjorkman. Fish took the first set in a tiebreak 7-6 and won the first game of set No. 2 when Bjorkman retired, sending Fish into the second round.
In Round 2, Fish met the fifth seed, Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain. They went the distance, with Fish coming out the winner 4-6, 7-6, 6-4.
Max Mirnyi was Fish’s opponent in Round 3. Fish again fought for three sets, winning 6-3, 4-6, 6-1.
In the quarterfinals, Fish met and defeated unseeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the semifinals.
Fish was definitely on a roll and upended the No. 16 seed Chilean Fernando Gonzalez 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, sending the American into the gold-medal match against the No. 10 seed Nicolas Massu.
This match took four sets to decide, but this time Fish fell short, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6—however, it was good enough for a silver medal for the American.
12. Jordi Arrese in 1992: Silver Finish
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As Marc Rosset was making his surprise run to the gold in Barcelona in 1992, Jordi Arrese of Spain, the No. 16 seed, was enjoying his own charge to the finish as a wild-card entry.
Arrese's first victim was Chang Eui-jong of South Korea, who lost in straight sets 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, sending the Spaniard into the second round. There Swede Magnus Gufstafsson awaited. The match with the Swede was far more difficult, but Arrese managed a win 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 3-6, 9-7.
In the third round, the Spaniard took care of Renzo Furlan of Italy 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, advancing to the quarterfinals at the Barcelona Olympics.
Alternate Leonardo Lavalle of Mexico had also managed his own surprise run, and he and Arrese would battle for a spot in the semifinals. The Spaniard, however, ended the run of the Mexican. Arrese moved on 6-1, 7-6, 6-1.
Meeting his first seeded player in the semifinals, Arrese found himself facing the Russian Andrei Cherkasov. Arrese defeated him 6-4, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 to advance to the gold-medal round.
In the final, Arrese met Marc Rosset. The two battled for five sets, with Arrese falling short 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-8—winning the silver medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
It was quite an accomplishment for an unseeded player.
13. Tommy Haas 2000: Silver Finish
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Also unseeded in the 2000 Atlanta Olympics was a young German, Tommy Haas.
He began his campaign by upsetting the No. 14 seed Wayne Ferreira of South Africa 7-5, 6-2.
His second-round opponent was Andreas Vinciguerra of Sweden, also unseeded in 2000.
Haas dispatched the Swede 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to advance to the third round, where Spaniard Alex Corretja, the No. 6 seed, waited. But, Haas was not deterred, winning 7-6, 6-3 in straight sets.
In the quarterfinals, Max Mirnyi of Belarus fought hard but went down to defeat 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Haas found himself in the semifinals facing Swiss teenager Roger Federer.
Federer fell easily 6-3, 6-2, allowing the German passage into the finals where he would do battle with the No. 5 seed, Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov.
Haas lost the gold-medal match 6-7, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6. The German, however, would go home with a silver medal from Athens in 2004.
14. Simon Aspelin and Thomas Johansson in 2008: Silver Finish
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Swedes Simon Aspelin and Thomas Johansson entered the 2008 Beijing Olympic tennis competition unseeded.
Their first-round opponents were Australians Paul Hanley and Jordan Kerr.
The Swedes defeated the Aussies 7-6, 6-3, moving on to face the Spanish team of Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer. Aspelin and Johansson hung on to win that encounter 7-6, 6-4.
They now found themselves in the quarterfinals confronting the Polish team of Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski.
The Swedes won 7-5, 6-4, moving on to meet the French team of Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra. In an epic battle, Aspelin and Johansson emerged victorious 7-6, 4-6, 19-17.
In the finals, the team from Sweden met the Swiss team of Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka.
Aspelin and Johansson fell short in the gold-medal match, losing 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 3-6—but they won a silver medal at the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
15. Marc Rosset in 1992: Gold Finish
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Switzerland’s Marc Rosset started action at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona unseeded.
The competition was being played out on clay courts, which did not, on first sight, appear to favor the tall Swiss with the big serve.
Rosset started his campaign against Karim Alami of Morocco. They split the opening sets 6-2, 4-6. In the third set, Alami retired behind 1-2.
Rosset advanced to the second round, where he faced the No. 9 seed Wayne Ferreira of South Africa. Rosset dispatched Ferreira 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 to move on to the third round.
In the next round, the Swiss’ opponent was world No. 1 Jim Courier, winner of the 1992 French Open.
In another upset, Rosset sent Courier back home 6-4, 6-2, 6-1, disappointed at being ejected so early.
The next seed to disappear from the draw at Rosset’s hands was the No. 12 seed Emilio Sanchez 6-4, 7-6, 3-6, 7-6, sending the Swiss onto the semifinals where he met the No. 4 seed Goran Ivanesivic.
Once again the surprise winner was Rosset as Ivanisevic fell 6-3, 7-5, 6-2.
Finally Rosset reached the gold-medal round. On the other side of the net was the No. 16 seed, wild card Jordi Arrese of Spain.
The Swiss worked hard for his gold, winning 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 8-6 in a five-set marathon. The whole world was shocked by Rosset's amazing run to the gold.
16. Lindsay Davenport in 1996: Gold Finish
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Although seeded during the 1996 Summer Olympics in the No. 9 spot, Lindsay Davenport’s run through the draw resulted in a surprising win.
The American defeated Anne Kremer of Luxembourg 6-2, 6-1.
This allowed the No. 9 seed to advance to the second round, where Davenport defeated Naoko Sawamatsu of Japan.
In the third round, Davenport upset the No. 5 seed Anke Huber of Germany 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. Davenport moved on to the quarterfinals.
Her opponent in the quarters was the No. 4 seed was Iva Majoli of Croatia. Davenport defeated Majoli 7-5, 6-3.
In the semifinals, she met fellow American Mary Jo Fernandez and won that match 6-2, 7-6.
Davenport was in the finals where she would do battle with the No. 2 seed Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.
Davenport came away with the gold, winning 7-6, 6-2, stunned by her victory and amazed by the Olympic spirit as they played the USA's national anthem.
17. Li Ting and Sun Tiantian in 2004: Gold Finish
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Li Ting and Sun Tiantian of China were the No. 8 seeds at the Summer Games in Athens in 2004.
No one really considered the team from China a threat because teams from Russia, Spain and the United States dominated women’s doubles.
Their opening-round opponents were supposed to be the Williams sisters, but Serena had withdrawn at the last minute, and Venus Williams teamed with Chanda Rubin to compete in doubles.
While the Americans were both top-notch doubles players, they were not accustomed to playing with each other, and they lost to Sun and Li 5-7, 6-1, 3-6.
The Chinese pair went on to the second round, defeating the team of Silvia Farina Elia and Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-1, 7-6.
In the quarterfinals, Li and Sun faced the Australian team of Rennae Stubbs and Alicia Molik, winning that encounter 6-3, 6-2.
Finally reaching the semifinals, the Chinese pair met and defeated the Argentines Paola Suarez and Patricia Tarabini 6-2, 2-6, 9-7, sending Li and Sun into the finals to face the highly favored team from Spain, Conchita Martinez and Virginia Ruano Pascual.
But the Spanish team failed to live up to their billing, and the little ladies from China won big—a gold medal, winning the match 6-3, 6-3.
It was China’s first medal in tennis, and the Chinese doubles team as well as a nation was thrilled.
18. Roger Federer & Stanislas Wawrinka in 2008: Gold Finish
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Although Roger Federer was thought of as one of the greatest tennis players on tour, he was not known for his doubles play—mainly because he had little time to play that side of the sport.
When he was eliminated in singles during the quarterfinals at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, he and countryman Stanislas Wawrinka made a run through the 2008 men’s doubles field.
They began by taking out the team from Italy, Simone Bolelli and Andreas Seppi 7-5, 6-1. Their next opponents were Russians Dmitry Tursunov and Mikhail Youzhny.
Federer and Wawrinka defeated them 6-4, 6-3, advancing to the quarterfinals, where the Swiss duo dispatched the Indian team of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes 6-2, 6-4.
In the semifinals, the Swiss team met the the No. 1 seeds Mike and Bob Bryan.
In a very challenging contest, Federer and Wawrinka came out the winners 7-6, 6-4—taking the team from Switzerland to the gold-medal round.
Their opponents in the final were Simon Aspelin and Thomas Johansson of Sweden.
In the final match, Federer and Wawrinka won in four sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 to win the gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
They celebrated in uncharacteristic Swiss fashion.
20. Conchita Martinez & Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 1992 & 1996: Silver & Bronze
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While Team USA was winning the gold in women’s doubles at the Summer Olympics held in 1992 and 1996, the Spanish team of Conchita Martinez and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario were doing their best to stop them.
In 1992 at the Summer Olympics held in Barcelona, the team of Martinez and Sanchez Vicario were the No. 1 seeds. To reach the gold-medal match, however, the Spanish team had to take care of quite a few great teams.
They began by eliminating the sisters from Madagascar, Dally and Natacha Randriantefy, 6-0, 6-0. The Spanish team hardly broke a sweat.
In the second match, Martinez and Sanchez Vicario defeated the team of Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere and Emanuela Zardo of Switzerland 6-0, 6-1, heading on to the quarterfinals.
In the round of eight, Martinez and Sanchez Vicario dismissed the team from France, Isabelle Demongeot and Nathalie Tauziat 6-2, 6-4.
In the semifinals, they faced the Australian team of Rachel McQuillan and Nicole Provis, defeating them 6-1, 6-2.
In the gold-medal match, Martinez and Sanchez Vicario lost to the American team of Gigi Fernandez and Mary Joe Fernandez 5-7, 6-2, 2-6. The Spaniards settled for silver, happy to have medaled at the Summer Games.
But the ladies from Spain were not finished.
Sanchez Vicario and Martinez returned to Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, this time as the No. 4 seeds in women’s doubles competition.
Ironically, they met the same team from Madagascar, sisters Dally and Natacha Randriantefy in the first round. This time they offered a bit more competition but still fell to the Spaniards 1-6, 3-6 after posting that double bagel in 1992.
In the second round, Martinez and Sanchez Vicario defeated the Croatians Iva Majoli and Maja Muric 6-2, 6-1 to move on to the quarterfinals. There they faced and defeated a team from Thailand, Benjamis Sangaram and Tamarine Tanasugarn, 6-2, 6-1.
In the semifinals, the team from Spain faced the Czech team of Jana Novotna and Helen Sukova, seeded No. 2. The Czechs defeated them 2-6, 6-7 to move onto the final match.
Sanchez Vicario and Martinez, however, came back to win bronze over the team from the Netherlands Manon Bollegraf and Brenda Schultz-McCarthy 6-1, 6-3, winning another Olympic medal.
The Spanish team medaled in two consecutive Olympics—something very few accomplish.
21. Todd Woodbridge & Mark Woodforde, 1996 & 2000: Gold & Silver Finishes
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The “Woodiesm” as they were affectionately known on tour, were a doubles team from Australia. In 1996 at the Summer Games in Atlanta, as the No. 1 seeds, they advanced through the draw to win a gold medal.
Their first opponents were Arnaud Boetsch and Guillaume Raoux of France. Woodbridge and Woodforde defeated the French team 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, allowing the Aussies to advance to the second round. The opponents waiting were Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes of India, but the "Woodies" dismissed them 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.
In the quarterfinals, Woodforde and Woodbridge met and defeated the Spanish team of Sergi Bruguera and Tomas Carbonell 6-4, 6-1. This allowed them to advance to the semifinals to meet Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis of the Netherlands. The “Woodies” defeated them 6-2, 5-7, 18-16—needless to say, it was not an easy victory.
Finally, Woodbridge and Woodforde met Brits Tim Henman and Neil Broad in the gold-medal match. The task was a little easier for the Aussies as they won 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to capture gold in Atlanta.
The Aussies came back for more in 2000, hoping to win gold in their home country. Woodforde and Woodbridge would defend their Olympic gold medal in Sydney, Australia, where once again they were the No.1 seeds.
After a bye in the first round, the team from Australia met and defeated the Indian team of Leader Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi 6-3, 7-6. This led them directly into the quarterfinals, where the “Woodies” defeated the team from Slovakia, Dominik Hrbaty and Karol Kucera 7-6, 6-4.
In the semifinals, Woodforde and Woodbridge took out the Spanish team of Alex Corretja and Albert Costa 6-3, 7-6.
The “Woodies" found themselves in their second consecutive gold medal match—but this time they could not pull out a win, falling to the Canadians Sebastien Lareau and Daniel Nestor 7-5, 3-6, 4-6, 6-7.
Woodforde and Woodbridge took home silver but were hoping for gold in their home country. Even so, it was a great run over two Olympic seasons for the doubles team from Australia.
22. Steffi Graf, 1988 and 1992: Gold and Silver Finishes
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Steffi Graf enjoyed one of the longest winning streaks in the history of the Summer Olympics, starting in 1988 and ending in 1992.
In 1988 as the No. 1 seed in women’s tennis, Graf began her epic journey to the podium in Seoul in Round 2 after receiving a first-round bye. There she defeated Russian Leila Meskhi 7-5, 6-1—moving on to meet Catherine Suire of France in Round 3. Graf defeated her 6-3, 6-0, which allowed her to advance to the quarterfinals
In the quarters, Graf met and defeated the No. 11 seed, another Russian, Lariso Savchenko, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. That sent the No. 1 seed into the semifinal match where she did battle with Zina Garrison of the United States, seeded No. 8 at the Seoul Olympics. Graf, however, wasted no time defeating Garrison 6-2, 6-0.
The German advanced to the gold medal match to face the No. 3 seed, Gabriella Sabatini from Argentina. Graf won outright 6-3, 6-3 to win her first taste of gold in 1988.
It should also be noted that Graf, teamed with countrywoman Claudia Kohde-Kilsch won a bronze medal in women's doubles that year. With an abbreviated field, which included a bye for the number two-seeded Germans, the team ended up winning only one match to secure the bronze since there was no consolation round in 1988.
After winning five matches in six rounds in singles competition at the Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1998, Graf again found herself the No. 1 seed at the Summer Olympics held in Barcelona in 1992.
By 1992, the “bye” round was eliminated. Graf faced Lupita Novelo of Mexico 6-1, 6-1 in the first round.
In the second round, Graf defeated Brenda Schultz of the Netherlands 6-1, 6-0. So far in two matches, Graf had allowed the opposition a total of three games. That would change in the third round as the No. 1 seed faced Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria, winning 6-3, 6-4.
Moving on to the quarterfinals, Graf turned back Sabine Appelmans of Belgium 6-1, 6-0. In the semifinals, Graf found herself facing Mary Joe Fernandez of the United States.
After winning her tenth singles match in a row at the Olympics, Graf moved on to the finals where another member of Team USA awaited.
Graf would fall one match short of winning double gold at the Olympics as Jennifer Capriati defeated her in the final 6-3, 3-6, 4-6.
Graf settled for a silver medal in 1992, ending her long run at the Summer Games.
22. Gigi Fernandez & Mary Joe Fernandez, 1992 & 1996: Double Gold Finishes
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Gigi Fernandez and Mary Joe Fernandez were not sisters—in fact, they were not related, but they teamed together to win consecutive gold medals in 1992 and 1996 at the Summer Olympics held in Barcelona and then Atlanta.
In 1992, Fernandez and Fernandez were the No. 2 seeds. They defeated the team from the Netherlands, Nicole Muns-Jagerman and Brenda Schultz, 6-0, 6-0.
The next team presented a few more problems, but Team USA overcame the charge of the German team of Steffi Graf and Anke Huber 7-6, 6-4. They moved on to the quarterfinals, where they defeated the South African team of Marianne de Swardt and Elna Reinach 6-2, 6-4.
In the finals, Fernandez and Fernandez dismissed the powerful Spaniards, Conchita Martinez and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 7-5, 2-6, 6-2—moving on to the podium to claim their first gold medal in 1992.
In 1996, at the Summer Olympics held in Atlanta, Gigi Fernandez and Mary Joe Fernandez were faced with the task of defending their gold medal run of 1992.
This time they were the No. 1 seeds, and they received a bye into Round 2 where the team faced the French team. They defeated Mary Pierce and Nathalie Tauziat 6-4, 6-3. In the quarterfinals, the pair took out the team from Great Britain, Valda Lake and Clare Wood, 6-2, 6-1.
The semifinals saw the team from the Netherlands, Manon Bollegraf and Brenda Schultz-McCarthy rose up strong, but Fernandez and Fernandez survived 7-5, 7-6.
This took them to their second consecutive gold-medal match. This time, the Americans faced the Czech team of Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova, seeded No. 2 in Atlanta.
Team Fernandez held on to win 7-6, 6-4 and claim double gold, undefeated in two separate Olympic challenges—nine matches in a row. Team Fernandez did not come back again in 2000.
23. Nicolas Massu in 2004: Double Gold Finishes
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As the No. 10 seed, no one was looking at Nicolas Massu as a potential gold medalist. But Massu not only won one gold in 2004 at the Athens Olympics, he won two—one in men’s singles and another in men’s doubles for one of the greatest runs in Olympic history.
In singles competition, Massu defeated Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil, unseeded at the Athens Summer Games, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. In the second round, Massu took out American Vince Spadea 7-6, 6-2 to move into Round 3 where he faced Russian Igor Andreev. The Russian extended him to three sets, but Massu prevailed 6-3, 6-7, 6-4.
In the quarterfinals, the Chilean met the No. 3 seed Carlos Moya but dispatched him quickly, 6-2, 7-5, to advance to the semifinals. Taylor Dent of the USA awaited, fighting hard in the first set. But Massu won 7-6, 6-1, finding himself in the gold-medal round where he faced another man from the USA, unseeded Mardy Fish.
In the five-set final, Massu won 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, taking the gold medal for Chile.
In doubles during the same Olympics, Massu teamed with countryman Fernando Gonzalez to march through the draw, attaining another top spot on the podium for a gold-medal performance.
Unseeded in the doubles draw, Massu and Gonzalez met the team from the Bahamas, Mark Knowles and Mark Merklein in the first round. Winning that opener 7-5, 6-4, the pair advanced to the second round, where they met and defeated the team from Argentina, Gaston Etlis and Martin Rodriquez, 6-3, 7-6.
In the quarterfinals Massu and Gonzalez upset the No. 1 seeds from Team USA, Mark and Bob Bryan, 7-5, 6-4.
Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia awaited them in the semifinals. The Chileans held on 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 to win, advancing to the gold-medal match, where they would defeat the German team of Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schuttler, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 in a ferocious battle to the finish.
In the end, Massu and his partner Fernando Gonzalez won the gold.
For Massu it was gold all the way around!
24. Venus Williams in 2000: Double Gold Finishes
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The Williams sisters were not seeded during the Olympics doubles competition in Sydney. The No. 1 seeds were Julie Halrad-Decugis and Amelie Mauresmo of France, and the No. 2 seeds were Conchita Martinez and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain.
Venus and Serena Williams had not played enough doubles matches to be seeded.
Their first victory was over the Canadian team of Sonya Jeyaseelan and Vanessa Web, 6-3, 6-1.
Their next win came over the Russian team of Elena Likhovtseva and Anastasia Myskina, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. In the quarterfinals, Serena and Venus Williams met the No. 1 seeds Halard-Decugis and Mauresmo, dismissing them 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the semifinals.
In the semifinals, the sisters discarded the Belgium team of Els Callens and Dominique van Roost 6-4, 6-1. In the gold-medal match, the Williams sisters defeated Kristie Boogert and Miriam Oremans of the Netherlands to claim the gold medal.
During that same Olympic competition but in women's singles, Venus Williams was the No. 2 seed. She defeated Henrieta Nagyova of Slovakia 6-2, 6-2 in the first round, followed by a victory over Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand 6-3, 6-3.
In the third round, Venus defeated Jana Kandarr of Germany 6-2, 6-2 to advance on to the quarterfinals.
Awaiting the elder Williams sister in the quarterfinal round was Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, the No. 5 seed. Venus won 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. After defeating Monica Seles in the semifinals, Venus moved on to the gold-medal round where her opponent was Russian Elena Dementieva.
Venus won her second gold medal as she defeated Dementieva 6-2, 6-4.
In all, Williams won 11 matches during the 2000 Olympics in an amazing run.
25. Fernando Gonzalez in 2004 & 2008: Gold, Bronze & Silver Finishes
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In 2004 at the Summer Games in Athens, Chilean Fernando Gonzalez managed to secure the No. 16 seed in men’s singles competition.
In the first round, Gonzalez defeated Konstantinos Economidis of Greece 7-6, 6-2. Moving on to the second round, the man from Chile took out Lee Hyung-Taik of South Korea 7-5, 6-2, advancing to the third round. His opponent there was American Andy Roddick, the No. 2 seed, who was history after losing 6-4, 6-4.
In the quarterfinals, Gonzalez faced the No. 8 seed, Sebastien Grosjean of France, winning 6-2, 2-6, 6-4. Advancing to the semifinals, Gonzalez faced American Mardy Fish, this time falling short 6-3, 3-6, 4-6.
In the consolation match, however, Gonzalez defeated another American, Taylor Dent 6-4, 2-6, 16-14 to win the bronze medal.
Unseeded in the doubles draw, Massu and Gonzalez met the team from the Bahamas, Mark Knowles and Mark Merklein, in the first round. Winning that opener 7-5, 6-4, the pair advanced to the second round, where they met and defeated the team from Argentina, Gaston Etlis and Martin Rodriquez, 6-3, 7-6.
In the quarterfinals, Massu and Gonzalez upset the No. 1 seeds from Team USA, Mark and Bob Bryan. 7-5, 6-4. Mario Ancic and Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia awaited them in the semifinals. The Chileans held on 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 to win, advancing to the gold-medal match where they would defeat the German team of Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schuttler, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 in a ferocious battle to the finish.
In the end, Gonzalez and his partner Nicolas Massu won the gold.
But Gonzalez was not finished. In 2008, at the next Summer Olympics, Gonzalez again marched through the draw—this time to the finals.
Seeded No. 12, Gonzalez began his 2008 Olympic campaign defeating Sun Peng of China 6-4, 6-4. In the second round, the Chilean took out Marin Ancic of Croatia 6-4, 6-2.
In the third round, the No. 12 seed met and defeated Olivier Rochus of Belgium 6-0, 6-3, sending him into the quarterfinals to face Paul Henri Mathieu. The Frenchman fell 6-4, 6-4.
Once again Gonzalez found himself in the semifinals, just as he was in 2004. But this time he won, defeating James Blake of the United States 4-6, 7-5, 11-9 in a fiercely contested match. Blake was the one who upset the No. 1 seed Roger Federer in the quarterfinals.
Finally, Gonzalez found himself in the finals where he faced Rafael Nadal, soon to be the No. 1 player in the world. Nadal won 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, but Gonzalez captured the gold and his third consecutive medal at the Olympics.