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Johnson-Sock take bronze, earn first tennis medal of 2016 Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: (L-R) Bronze medalists Steve Johnson and Jack Sock of the United States stand on the podium after the Men's Doubles competition on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Tennis Centre on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
August 12, 2016 03:55 PM

By Ashley Marshall and E.J. Crawford, USTA.com

Americans Steve Johnson and Jack Sock took home the first tennis medal of the 2016 Olympic Games, teaming to defeat the No. 7 seeds Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil of Canada, 6-2, 6-4, in the men’s doubles bronze medal match.

With the victory, Johnson and Sock become the third American pair to win an Olympic medal in men’s doubles. Bob and Mike Bryan took gold in 2012 in London and Ken Flach and Robert Seguso claimed the top spot on the podium in 1988. The Bryan brothers also earned a bronze medal in 2008.

"It feels incredible," said Sock. "I’ve been saying it all week and I’m going to say it again. It was an awesome time playing with Stevie, a real good buddy on a team representing your country. It has been an incredible experience.

"To be able to come away with a medal no matter what color it is going to be an incredible feel going into the rest of the summer and rest of the year really for life. These are something we are going to have forever and something we can share together. It’s awesome to be able to bring one back them back to the U.S. for the country."

The victory was a great finish to a long day for Johnson, who dropped a heartbreaker to world No. 2 Andy Murray of Great Britain, 6-0, 4-6, 7-6(2), in the men’s singles quarterfinals earlier Friday afternoon. The American was up a break at 4-3 in the final set, but the 2016 Wimbledon champion responded with a break of his own before taking the match in the tiebreak.

"I’ve had a mix of emotions today," Johnson said. "I was in tears after the singles and my coach and teammates kind of picked me up. We had one match to play. I don’t care how tired and disappointed I was in singles but I would have liked to have won but Jack did a great job of getting us fired up. 

"To get a great start like we had makes a great difference I could not be any happier now. I don’t even remember the singles from earlier. Who cares about that. I’m just happy to be standing on the podium with Jack."

Also Friday, Madison Keys fell in the women’s singles semifinals to No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, 6-3, 7-5. Keys remains in medal contention, however. The No. 7 seed will face No. 11 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic on Saturday with the bronze medal on the line.

In the mixed doubles quarterfinals, Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram beat Roberta Vinci and Fabio Fognini of Italy, 6-3, 7-5, to advance into medal contention. Later Friday night, Sock and Bethanie Mattek-Sands defeated Taliana Pereira and Marcelo Melo of Brazil, 6-4, 6-4.

That guarantees the U.S. a medal in mixed doubles. Even if Williams and Ram and Sock and Mattek-Sands lose their semifinal matches on Saturday, they would play each other Sunday for bronze. Two victories on Saturday and the U.S. will be assured of gold and silver in the event.

Lisa Raymond and Mike Bryan won a bronze medal in the mixed doubles in London four years ago. That marked the first time mixed doubles had been contested at the Olympics since 1924 and just the fifth time overall.

The U.S. has won more Olympic medals in men's and women's tennis than any other nation since tennis was reinstated as an Olympic sport in 1988. Heading into the 2016 Games, the U.S.’s medal total (21) was 10 more than the nearest other medal-winning nations (Spain with 11).