Fresh off earning Olympic medals, top seeds and former Cincinnati champions discussed their Rio experiences and goals ahead for the rest of the American hard court season Tuesday.
World No. 2 and top seed Andy Murray successfully defended his gold medal in Rio and is back in Cincinnati in search of his third career title. Rafael Nadal, 2013 Cincinnati champion, also took home his second Olympic gold, this time coming in doubles.
Singles bronze medalist Kei Nishikori is in the main tournament field for the first time since 2013.
For the WTA, world No. Angelique Kerber is back in Cincinnati after earning singles silver. She’s riding into this week with a chance to assume the No. 1 world ranking with a tournament victory.
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MURRAY’S BACK-TO-BACK TITLES
Before winning any of his three Grand Slam titles, Andy Murray experienced a breakthrough victory with his gold medal performance in front of a home crowd at the 2012 London Olympics. After defeating Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in Sunday’s four-set final in Rio, how did his gold medal compare?
“Obviously the one in London, obviously never going to get the chance to play in a home Olympics again, so it was amazing to get to do that in London,” Murray said. “I said before that I didn't think that anything would really sort of top that.
“But I didn't have to work as hard for that one in the final as I did in the match against Juan Martin. It was so up and down, the final, emotionally, physically. It was a really, really hard match, one of the hardest matches that I've played.”
It took just a hair over four hours, but Murray eventually defeated del Potro 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 to defend his Olympic title.
Now it’s back to work for Murray, the top seed in this week’s tournament. He has won in Cincinnati twice (2008, 2011) and was a semifinalist last year.
A SILVER FOR GERMANY
World No. 2 Angelique Kerber did not have time to cheer on fellow Germans in other sports during her stay in Rio, but her schedule was busy because of her high-level play.
Making her second Olympic appearance, Kerber took home the silver medal in women’s singles, losing in a final three-setter to Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.
“The final was a good final from both of us and she played an unbelievable match, I think one of her best matches in in her career for sure,” Kerber said. “Still, I had a great week. I won a medal. That was my goal before I got to Rio. It was a really special week for me.”
With Serena Williams withdrawing this week with a shoulder injury, Kerber could claim the No. 1 world ranking with a tournament victory here in Cincinnati.
Kerber is focused on the matches ahead rather than the potential move to the top of the WTA charts. With a bye in the first round, she would need to win five matches to hoist the Rookwood Cup.
“I’m trying to not listen about that because I am here to play every single match,” Kerber said. “When the day will come and really I can be one day the No. 1, it's amazing, but I have still a long, tough way to go there.”
Kerber has put together the best season of her career, winning the Australian Open and making the finals of Wimbledon. She was a finalist in Cincinnati in 2012.
GOLD AGAIN FOR RAFA
Rafael Nadal lost in the bronze medal match to Kei Nishikori, but he still took home an Olympic gold in doubles for Spain. He teamed up with childhood friend Marc Lopez to beat the Romanian team of Horia Tecau and Florin Mergea 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 to capture the title.
Nadal has now experienced gold medals in singles and doubles at the Olympic games, having won the singles title in Beijing in 2008.
“The gold in doubles was amazing,” Nadal said. “Winning a medal is always very, very special, but especially doing with one of my best friends is even more special,” Nadal said. “I won the gold in Beijing and now the doubles gold here, so for me is difficult compare with another things.”
The Olympics marked a stress test for Nadal’s wrist. Because of the injury, he had not played any tournaments since the French Open in early June. He missed Wimbledon and the grass court season.
“Two months and a half without competing and to be able to arrive there with no practicing at all and be able to win the matches that I won in singles and doubles was a great thing,” said Nadal, who added he was encouraged at how his wrist held up after so much singles and doubles play in Rio.
Nadal is a former champion in Cincinnati, having won the title in 2013.