Damien Kayat previews the Olympic Ladies Tennis Gold Medal and Bronze medal matches.
2020 Summer Olympics
Ladies Olympics Tennis
Ariake Tennis Park, Tokyo, Japan (Outdoor Hardcourts)
Gold and Bronze Medal Matches- 31st July
Bronze Medal Match
Elena Rybakina (15) (68/100) vs Elina Svitolina (11/10)
This is the tennis equivalent of the Playoff Championship Final at Wembley. The winner of this match wins a little piece of tennis immortality while the loser gets nothing. The 3rd-4th playoffs in Olympic tennis are far from glorified exhibition matches. This opportunity only comes around once every four years. Rybakina may be the one who will need to refocus quicker. The Kazakhstan player blew a massive opportunity to compete in the Gold Medal match, leading 2-0 in the decisive set against Belinda Bencic. Rybakina has looked in blistering form during this event, not dropping a set leading into the semi-finals (that included victories over the likes of Vekic and Muguruza). But errors started to creep in at critical moments against Bencic. One thing that has generally worked for Rybakina has been her huge serve. She pummelled down 14 aces in her semi-final. She just needs to tighten up that error count. She led the WTA tour in finals last year and reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at this year’s French Open.
Elina Svitolina has pretty much had the complete inverse experience to Rybakina during this year’s Olympics. She needed three-sets in each of her opening three matches. But she was blown away by Marketa Vondrousova in the semi-final. Let’s not sugar-coat it: it was a disastrous performance. She committed three double faults and conceded a total of 29 unforced errors. She only hit eight winners in the match! This is really the continuation of a disturbing trend for the Ukrainian in mammoth semi-finals. She has now lost an Olympic semi-final and two Grand Slam semi-finals in straight sets. She really needs to serve well to win these crunch matches. She only managed a paltry 47% of first serves in the opening match.
Elina Svitolina and Elena Rybakina are tied 1-1 in their head-to-head meetings. This one really boils down to Rybakina’s serve. She should dominate the Ukrainian if she keeps a reasonable first serve percentage. I just think that Svitolina looked shot- both mentally and physically- in her defeat to Marketa Vondrousova. Rybakina to win in straight sets at 31/20.
Gold Medal Match
Belinda Bencic (9) (21/20) vs Marketa Vondrousova (72/100)
Swiss star Belinda Bencic is hoping to reenergize Swiss tennis following Roger Federer’s rapid decline. She has reached the Gold Medal in both the singles and doubles this year. Bencic has enjoyed a rollercoaster of a year, reaching in finals in Adelaide and Berlin. But she has generally underwhelmed in big events. But Bencic is a dangerous all-court player who (in my opinion) still has her best results ahead of her. And she clearly loves representing her country. This year’s Olympics isn’t the first time she has flown the Swiss flag proudly: she is a two-time Hopman Cup winner alongside Roger Federer. She needs to tighten up her serve following that Rybakina match. She served a mammoth 12 double faults against the Kazakh, allowing her far too many break-point opportunities
Considering the plethora of brilliant Czech players in lades tennis, I was quite surprised to discover that Marketa Vondrousova will be the first Czech Olympic Singles finalist. But it doesn’t surprise me that the left-handed clay-court specialist has succeeded on this surface. The slowness of these Tokyo hardcourts almost replicate aspects of clay-court tennis. The 2019 French Open finalist has used her legendary dropshot to scintillating effect throughout the tournament. Vondrousova pulverized Svitolina in the last round, forcing the Ukrainian into a slew of errors. Vondrousova incurred the enmity of the Japanese nation after knocking out superstar Naomi Osaka in straight sets.
This will only be the 2nd ever meeting between these two. Vondrousova won their only match earlier this year in Miami. I think that the Czech star will be the one to beat here. Bencic will obviously be stretched a bit further by her exertions in the double’s competition. But I just think that Vondrousova is almost perfectly suited to this surface.