LIMA, Peru – The United States’ tennis duo of Usue Arconada and Caroline Dolehide fended off a comeback attempt from Paraguay’s tandem of Veronica Cepede-Royg and Montserrat Gonzalez, 6-0, 6-4, to win gold in women’s doubles at the Pan American Games Lima 2019. Arconada, of Naples, Fla. and Dolehide, from Orlando, Fla., did not lose a set during the tournament.
They join a list of previous U.S. Pan Am Games doubles gold-medal winners that includes Arthur Ashe, Patrick McEnroe and Pam Shriver.
“It feels amazing,” Dolehide said. “It’s what we came here to do. We wanted to represent the U.S. well and bring home the gold. That was all that was on our minds.”
After having to come from behind to win the first game, Arconada and Dolehide dominated Paraguay in the first set. Early in the second set, it appeared as if the United States might win the match without losing a game. Arconada turned up the defensive effort in the first game of the second set and stifled plenty of rallies with drop shots near the net. In the second game of the second set, Dolehide connected on a backhand that barely cleared the net to secure the United States’ eight consecutive game won.
“I think we started very strong,” Arconada said. “(Cepede-Royg and Gonzalez) got a little frustrated with themselves because they weren’t converting. It gave us a lot of confidence going forward.”
In the third game of the second set, Paraguay showed signs of life. While it didn’t win the game, Paraguay challenged Team USA, engaging in long rallies and cleaning up errors in service and returns.
This potential swing in momentum was stopped by Arconada. She displayed both power and grace in subsequent points, first with a smash into the clay surface, then pinpointing the corner of the court with a volley, neither of which Paraguay could reach.
Arconada continued her strong play in the fourth game of the second set, not allowing a single point and icing the game with an untouchable ace. With only two games standing between Arconada and Dolehide and gold, Paraguay rounded into form in the fifth game of the second set to make things interesting.
Cepede-Royg and Gonzalez shocked the U.S., striking perfect shots to win the game without surrendering a point. As the momentum of Paraguay grew, so too did the noise level from the crowd. Whether the fans were originally rooting for Paraguay or just had an affinity for the underdog, the entire crowd seemed to be chanting for Paraguay entering the sixth game of the second set.
Paraguay fed off this positive energy and turned it into strong play. With Dolehide serving for the United States, Cepede-Royg and Gonzalez utilized drop shots and smashes to prevail in a close game. Visibly frustrated, Dolehide launched a spare ball out of the stadium after her deciding return attempt sailed long.
“In the moment, I was just frustrated with myself,” Dolehide said. “I didn’t really go for it in the moment. Throughout the match, I was going for it and that’s something we pride ourselves on, going for shots that no one else really goes for. I just let some anger out and got back to business.”
Frustration continued for the U.S. as Paraguay won the seventh game of the second set, its third straight. In the eighth game of the second set, the U.S. seemed to regain its composure, winning handily. But Paraguay won the ninth game of the second set in a close affair. For much of the second set, Team USA had come so close to securing the gold but had faltered. Things came together for Arconada and Dolehide in the tenth game of the second set.
Well-placed shots from both Arconada and Dolehide forced Paraguay into awkward returns, many of which connected with the net or landed out of play. On the final point of the game, a Paraguay return attempt sailed beyond the back line, securing the gold for the U.S.
“It’s something you dream of,” Arconada said. “It feels kind of unreal to actually get to live it, especially with one of my closer friends. Our teamwork was amazing, and we got the medal count up for the U.S., which is always good.”