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Johnson, Keys victorious on Rio Day 4; Venus to play mixed doubles

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Steve Johnson of the United States hits during the men's second round single match against Gastao Elias of Portugal on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Tennis Centre on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
August 9, 2016 02:25 PM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

Two Olympic rookies, Steve Johnson and Madison Keys, keep marching on at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Johnson needed a little over an hour to punch his ticket to the round of 16 on Tuesday afternoon with a straight-sets win over Portugal’s Gastao Elias, and Keys won her second three-setter in two days, holding off Carla Suarez Navarro to advance to the quarterfinals.

Johnson also advanced into medal contention with Jack Sock in men's doubles.

Those victories offset a surprising loss for world No. 1 Serena Williams, who fell to 15th seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, 6-4, 6-3, in the round of 16.

The 12th-seeded Johnson toppled Elias, 6-3, 6-4, in 67 minutes on Court 4 to set up a round-of-16 clash with Russia’s Evgeny Donskoy, who dispatched No. 7 seed David Ferrer. Johnson and world No. 84 Donskoy have never faced each other before, but Johnson will enter as the favorite.

The 26-year-old American, currently ranked No. 22 in the world, dropped just one set in winning the Wimbledon tune-up event in Nottingham in June, and he also reached the fourth round of Wimbledon, the third round of the Australia Open and the semifinals of the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. Prior to his victory over Ferrer, Donskoy had just three wins over Top 100 players this year and was 0-7 against players in the Top 50.

With John Isner opting out of playing in Brazil, Johnson is the highest-ranked American man in the tournament. Several top seeds – five of the 16 that started the Games – have already been eliminated, most notably top seed and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

On Tuesday, Johnson dominated on his serve, dropping just nine points in total and winning 14 of 17 points on his second serve. Johnson did not face a break point against the world No. 60, securing the first set with the help of a break at 3-4 and wrapping up the match thanks to a second break at 4-4.

Johnson's big day continued onto the doubles court, where he and Sock upset the No. 8 seeds from Spain, Ferrer and Roberto Bautista Agut, 6-4, 6-2, to advance to the semifinals. A victory in the semis against either the Brazilian team of Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares or the Romanian pairing of Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau and the American duo will be playing for gold this weekend. A loss and they will compete in the bronze medal match.

Elsewhere on Day 4, No. 7 seed Keys defeated ninth-seeded Suarez Navarro of Spain, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, and will now play Russian Daria Kasatkina in the women's singles quarterfinals. The winner of that match faces a possible semifinals showdown with No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany.

Keys blasted past Suarez Navaro from the baseline, recording 38 winners to the Spaniard’s eight despite also making 32 unforced errors. The American broke twice in the 27-minute first set before Suarez Navarro raced out to a 3-0 lead in the second en route to levelling the match.

But it was Keys, who didn’t create a break point in that second set, who outlasted her opponent in a nervous final set. After four consecutive breaks of serve, Keys earned what proved to be the decisive breakthrough at 4-3, reeling off the final three games to advance to the last eight.

***

The mixed doubles teams were announced on Tuesday. Venus Williams will play in her third event of the Games for Team USA when she joins forces with Rajeev Ram to take on Kiki Bertens and Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands in the opening round. Also for the U.S., Bethanie Mattek-Sands will partner with Jack Sock when they face the British duo of Johanna Konta and Jamie Murray.

Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, also boasts 14 women’s major doubles titles – all with Serena – and two mixed doubles Slam titles with fellow American Justin Gimelstob, both won in 1998. Venus has also won three Olympic women’s doubles gold medals with Serena, in 2000, 2008 and 2012. She will team up with 32-year-old Olympic debutant Ram, who has made four Grand Slam doubles quarterfinals and a pair of semifinals.

On the other U.S, team, Mattek-Sands and Sock both have a history of doubles success. Mattek-Sands won the 2015 Australian Open and French Open women’s doubles titles with Lucie Safarova. She also claimed the mixed doubles crown in Melbourne in 2012 with Horia Tecau and the 2015 French Open mixed title alongside Mike Bryan. Last September, she reached the final of the US Open with Sam Querrey. Sock won the 2011 US Open mixed doubles title with Melanie Oudin and took the 2014 Wimbledon men’s doubles title with Vasek Pospisil.
 

 

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