RIO DE JANEIRO -- After losing in the men’s doubles semifinal Thursday at the Olympic Tennis Center, Steve Johnson talked long-distance with Bob Bryan, who won doubles gold for the U.S. in 2012 and bronze in 2008.
Bryan told him that “although it’s an odd way to put it, winning the bronze medal is pretty satisfying.”
Johnson and his doubles partner at the Rio 2016 Olympics, Jack Sock, found that to be true Friday, as they fought through the heartbreak of their losses in singles to taste victory in doubles.
“I couldn’t be any happier,” Johnson said after winning, 6-2, 6-4, against Canada’s Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil. “I don’t even remember the singles at this point.”
Six hours before the bronze-medal doubles match, Johnson, ranked No. 22 in the ATP World rankings, fell in the quarterfinals of singles to Great Britain's Andy Murray.
“I’ve had quite the range of emotions today,” said Johnson. “I was in tears after the singles and my teammates picked me up. I don’t care how disappointed I am with my result in singles today, because I would have liked to have won, but (Sock) did a great job of getting us fired up.”
Sock, ranked No. 23, was eliminated in the first round of singles Saturday and was able to forego his individual expectations to focus on the team aspect earlier than Johnson. But he was only able to enjoy his victory for a few hours.
Sock and Bethanie Mattek-Sands were scheduled to play in the mixed doubles quarterfinal after the men’s doubles medal ceremony. But that did not detract from how sweet a medal felt.
“It feels incredible,” said Sock. “I’ve said it all week and I’ll say it again, it was an awesome time playing with (Johnson). To come away with a medal, no matter the color or the place, is going to be an incredible feeling going into the rest of the summer, the rest of the year and for life. It’s something we can always share together.”
Bob Bryan won gold in London and bronze in Beijing with his twin brother, Mike. The twins opted out of the Rio Games to focus on their families. They have however, been mentors to Sock and Johnson, both first-time Olympians, throughout the Games.
“Mike and Bob, and their coach have been in touch with us all week and cheering us on,” Johnson said. “Those guys are about as American as it gets. They want us to do well.”
Although the Games have provided their share of heartbreak, to walk away with a medal will be surreal, no matter how long the feeling lasts, said Sock.
“I might sleep with (the medal),” said Johnson.
Nicole Chrzanowski is a student in the Sports Media Certificate program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.