Americans Venus Williams, Keys, Johnson Advance in Olympic Tennis


Something odd happened for members of the U.S. Olympic tennis team at the Rio Summer Olympics Thursday:

They were successful.

Madison Keys is into the women's semifinals, Steve Johnson is into the men's quarterfinals and the pairing of Venus Williams and teammate Rajeev Ram came back from a set down to defeat Kiki Bertens and Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (3), 10-8.

Keys, a 21-year-old first time Olympian who is seeded No. 7, beat Daria Katsanika of Russia 6-3, 6-1 in 53 minutes Thursday, thanks in large part to a 30-4 edge in winners. One more victory, and Keys will be assured of going home with a medal.

Johnson, seeded No. 12, had a similarly easy time of it against Evgeny Donskoy of Russia, winning 6-1, 6-1. The wins came a day after rain delayed all tennis matches.

Keys and Johnson are the last two Americans in singles play at the tennis. The other six lost early, including Venus Williams in the first round, and Serena Williams in the third.

Venus Williams, the four-time gold medalist, was not originally expected to enter the event but lost in the first round in both singles and doubles, teaming with sister Serena. She entered the draw after her two early exits, which came while she was battling a virus. The 36-year-old was still coughing Thursday but didn't want to talk about her health.

"What can you do except come back and play again?" Williams said.

Rafael Nadal, a 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medalist, beat 15th-seeded Gilles Simon of France 7-6 (5), 6-3 to make the quarterfinals. Nadal and Marc Lopez assured themselves of earning a gold or silver for Spain by reaching the men's doubles final with a 7-6 (1), 7-6 (4) victory over Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil of Canada on Thursday.

Nadal and Lopez will face Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau of Romania in the gold medal match. Mergea and Tecau beat Steve Johnson and Jack Sock of the U.S. 6-3, 7-5 on Thursday.

Nestor and Pospisil play Johnson and Sock for the bronze. Pospisil and Sock won the 2014 Wimbledon doubles title together.

Nadal did pull out of mixed doubles at the Olympics before playing his first-round match.

The International Tennis Federation announced Nadal's withdrawal Thursday, when he was supposed to make his debut in that event for Spain at the Rio de Janeiro Games with Garbine Muguruza.

Their match against Lucie Hradecka and Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic had been scheduled to be Nadal's third contest of the day.

The Olympics are Nadal's first competition in 2½ months. He had been sidelined with an injured left wrist.

The 2012 London Games champion, Andy Murray, considered an overwhelming favorite to win the Rio de Janeiro tennis tournament after No. 1 Novak Djokovic's early exit, reached the quarterfinals Thursday by beating Fabio Fognini of Italy 6-1, 2-6, 6-3.

Murray trailed 3-0 in the final set before turning things around on an afternoon so windy that courtside signage repeatedly got blown over.

The result stretched Murray's winning streak to 15 matches, including a second Wimbledon championship last month for a third Grand Slam title overall.

Murray, the No. 2 seed from Britain, kept alive his bid for an unprecedented second consecutive Olympic singles gold medal.

Both Murray and Nadal are attempting to become the first tennis player to win two singles gold medals.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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