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Wagner, Taylor land silver at Paralympics in Rio

September 14, 2016 04:53 PM

By Steve Goldberg, special to USTA.com

Rio de Janeiro – Three for four. David Wagner and Nick Taylor had won every doubles match they'd ever played over four Paralympic Games, dating back to Athens 2004. 

On a humid night on Center Court in the Rio Olympic Tennis Center, only two games separated them from a fourth, beaten by Dylan Alcott and Heath Davidson of Australia, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

"I thought we gave it one of the best matches we've ever played," said a disconsolate Nick Taylor, "and it wasn't enough."

Yet even though they were the three-time defending Paralympic gold medalists, most wheelchair tennis observers anticipated that this would be the games that reign would end.

"We knew it was going to be a tough match because they are physically stronger than us," said Wagner after the medal ceremony. New to the quad division, Alcott, 25, and Davidson, 29, have brought an as-to-yet unforeseen mix of youth and athleticism with Alcott taking over as the division's top ranked player. He's
won 35 of 36 singles matches this year.

Evidently, the memo didn't get to Taylor and Wagner, who came out as champions do, taking five of the first six games on the way to winning the first set 6-4.

After losing the first game of the second set, it looked as though the Americans would take care of business in two, winning the next four games to go up 4-1.

And it looked as though Wagner definitely had his swagger back, a trait missing from his semifinal singles match against Britain's Andy Lapthorne the previous evening. Nothing loud, nothing boisterous. Just the confidence demonstrated with a bicep curl and a fist thrust in the warm Rio air.

He also pointed out more than once or twice with a single extended index finger who the No. 1 doubles team in the world has been for the past 16 years. While the Aussies may not have the history, experience and precious medal collection that Taylor and Wagner have, they did not get to the final match by rolling over, either. 

The Australians won the next five games to extend the match to a third set, but Wagner and Taylor were undaunted as they took the first three games of the final set, twice breaking serve. And just like that, Australia won the next three.

The seventh game went to Australia giving them the 4-3 margin. Wagner held serve to tie it at four games apiece.  Two hours and 32 minutes into the match, Australia won to lead 5-4. Again, the Americans wouldn't fold, with Wagner's overhead splitting Alcott and Davidson to even it at 5-5.

"I can live with myself knowing that we did the right thing and we try to give it our best shot every time," concluded Wagner.

When it looked as though a tiebreaker would decide the medal, the Aussies scored the 200th and 201st points of the match to win the gold.

"In all the other [Paralympic] games, I felt if we played to the best we could, we would win," said Taylor. "But these games with these two guys specifically, I wasn't sure if the best we had was going to be enough."

It just about was.

In the bronze medal match, Great Britain's Lapthorne and Jamie Burdekin defeated Itai Erenlib and Shraga Weinberg of Israel, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6.