Third time's a charm

The Baltimore Sun

BEIJING - He is the ultimate Swiss timepiece now. Gold, no less.

Roger Federer has been pursuing a spot on the top platform of an Olympic victory stand for eight years and three Olympics, and it didn't seem possible that he had not yet made the climb. He has been the best tennis player in the world for long enough to have your son or daughter start and finish college, but the Olympics have always been his banana peel.

Last night, it finally came to pass that dreams do come true, even for icons who have realized almost all of theirs. Federer won a gold medal, stood on the top step, listened to his country's national anthem and fought back tears.

When the final shot missed off the racket of Sweden's Thomas Johansson, Federer, who just turned 27, bounced up and down three times like an 8-year-old, then hugged playing partner Stanislas Wawrinka while jumping up and down in sync with him. Before long, they were rolling around and celebrating on the court.

This was doubles, a game Federer usually recognizes only as he walks past matches on the back courts on his way home from a singles victory. By the nature of what he does, he is a loner - in job description, not personality.

So, when he and Wawrinka took the Olympic title, beating Johansson and partner Simon Aspelin, a four-time All-American in the mid-1990s at Pepperdine, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3, the whole team celebration thing was new to Federer.

"I can't hug a stranger when I win in singles," he said.

Wawrinka, 23, who has worked his way up to No. 10 in singles, was no stranger.

"It is quite a special moment," Federer said, "being able to share this with somebody, somebody you like very much."

No surprise, Federer was the best player on the court. For the most part, he was untouchable - especially on his serve - and Johansson and Aspelin are not chopped liver. Johansson won the Australian Open singles in 2002 and Aspelin won last year's U.S. Open doubles with Julian Knowle of Austria.

So it was both fitting and symbolic to have the match on Federer's racket at 5-3 of the fourth set.

"There is so much pressure," Federer said, "but it is exactly where you want to be."

Mike and Bob Bryan of the United States won the bronze medal yesterday. The brothers rallied to defeat Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement of France 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

On the women's side, Serena and Venus Williams advanced yesterday to the doubles final by beating another sibling pair, Ukraine's Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Venus and Serena improved to 9-0 lifetime in Olympic doubles. They won a gold medal in Sydney.

Both were beaten in the quarterfinals of singles, but they're assured at least a silver medal in doubles.

* Baseball: The U.S. stayed barely alive with a 5-4 come-from-behind win over Canada. Brian Barden was the hero going 2-for-4 with a home run. The U.S. (2-2) next plays China (1-2) tomorrow.

* Beach volleyball: The United States continued to roll moving both men's teams on to the quarterfinals. Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers beat Martin Laciga and Jan Schnider of Switzerland, two sets to one. Later in the day, Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal beat Pablo Herrera and Raul Mesa, 2-0. The men's quarterfinals are tomorrow.

* Boxing: Bad day for the U.S. team as both its boxers lost. Shawn Estrada lost to James Degale of Great Britain, 11-5, in the middleweight division. Luis Yanez lost in the light flyweight division to Serdamba Purevdorj of Mongolia, 8-7. Today, welterweight Demetrius Andrade and heavyweight Deontay Wilder will try and advance.

* Cycling: U.S. rider Taylor Phinney lost to Hayden Rouston of New Zealand in the individual pursuit.

* Diving: Nancilea Foster and Christina Loukas of the U.S. placed fourth and seventh in the semifinals, qualifying for today's women's 3 meter springboard finals.

* Fencing: The U.S. got its first Olympic medal in the foil since 1960 when Emily Cross, Erinn Smart and Hannah Thompson settled for silver after losing, 28-11, to Russia.

* Field hockey: The U.S. women's team picked up its first win of the tournament, beating New Zealand, 4-1. The team is now 1-2-1 with its final game tomorrow against Great Britain.

* Rowing: The U.S. picked up a silver medal in the women's single sculls when Michelle Guerette rallied from fifth to take second.

* Sailing: Medals were supposed to be awarded yesterday but the wind didn't show, postponing the final races in the Finn and Yngling classes. The U.S. has a good chance to medal in the Finn as Zach Railey sits in second behind Ben Ainslie of Britain. In the Yngling, the U.S. entry is fourth behind Britain, the Netherlands and Greece.

* Shooting: Vincent Hancock, an Army marksman for the U.S., survived the dreaded four-target shootout to win the gold medal in men's skeet.

* Softball: The U.S. win streak went to 19 with an easy 7-0 win over Taiwan. Jessica Mendoza got her third home run of the tournament and Jennie Finch picked up her second win. The U.S. plays the Netherlands today.

* Table tennis: The U.S. team's dream of a bronze medal was dashed in the second round of the bronze playoff when it got blitzed by South Korea, 3-0.

* Volleyball: Hugh McCutcheon, the U.S. men's coach, returned to the bench for the first time since his father-in-law was killed on the streets of Beijing. The U.S. team responded with a three-set sweep of China. The U.S. and Russia are the only teams at 4-0

* Water polo: The U.S. men upset top-rated Croatia, 7-5, as goalie Merrill Moses made 11 saves. The U.S. has a 3-1 record and faces Germany tomorrow.

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