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Bubbling with emotion

We did it: Marcus Daniell, white cap, and Michael Venus celebrate victory over Tennys Sandgren and Austin Krajicek [US] for the Olympics men’s doubles bronze medal last Friday. PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES

Daniell still processing stirring bronze victory

TENNIS

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

“This is bigger than any tournament win I’ve had, and it’s for something larger than myself.”

For Wairarapa’s Marcus Daniell, it’s been an emotional time since winning the Olympics men’s doubles bronze medal with Michael Venus on Friday night.

The bronze is New Zealand’s first tennis medal [Anthony Wilding won a bronze medal in the indoor singles at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics representing Australasia].

It is also Wairarapa’s third Olympics medal, after Tinks Pottinger’s eventing team bronze at the 1988 Seoul games and Shakira Baker’s silver in the women’s rugby sevens at Rio in 2016.

“Anthony is New Zealand’s best-ever player, so to be following in his footsteps 100 or so years later is completely surreal, and to be Wairarapa’s third ever medallist has a similar tone,” Daniell said.

“I’m a proud Kiwi and proud to be from Wairarapa. It’s very special thinking about sharing this medal and this moment with everyone from home.”

Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus after winning the bronze medal match against Americans Tennys Sandgren and Austin Krajicek.

Daniell and Venus went into the bronze medal match on the back of a heavy straight sets loss to Croatian pair Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig.

Daniell said the preparation started immediately after that semifinal loss.

“After the semis Mike and I went straight back out on the practice court and worked through some of the things we knew we could do better.

“It was a productive session, and we left the courts that night with more clarity and confidence, and we knew that we could get the bronze if we executed.”

The plan worked a treat against the American combination of Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren.

The Kiwis won the first set in a tiebreak and then broke their opponents twice in the second set for a 7-6 [3] 6-2 victory.

Although the final score looked comfortable, Daniell said he was trying not to think ahead.

“The worst thing you can do in tennis is to start projecting your mind into the future because you can’t run the clock down, and you have to keep winning and winning until the last point is over. So, I was doing my best to stay in the present and focus on what I could control.”

Daniell felt that the medal will go some way to making up for the sacrifices over the past 18 months because of covid-19 – especially for Venus, who left his wife Sally and two young daughters Lila [2] and Georgia, who was born a week before he left for 14 weeks.

“I’ve found it extremely difficult not being able to get home in over a year, so I can’t even imagine what it’s like for Mike to have left his wife and two kids and not know when he’ll be able to see them again. It’s a huge sacrifice from him and a huge effort, and hopefully this medal makes it a little more worthwhile.”

Daniell is uncertain when he will get back to New Zealand but is trying to get a spot in MIQ and hoping to return in November.

“At this point, it’s looking pretty grim. But we’re hoping that we’ll be able to see family at some point this year.”

In the meantime, Daniell will meet his wife Caro in Washington DC this week before the start of the Citi Open in which he is seeded second in the men’s doubles with new partner Neil Skupski [Britain].

As for the future, the 30-year-old is looking at the next Olympics to put a seal on his career.

“Paris 2024 has always been in the back of my mind as the last year I’ll play tennis, and with this medal now I might find the inspiration to carry on until then.”

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