Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev win gold in thrilling all-ROC mixed doubles final

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 01:  Andrey Rublev of Team ROC and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Team ROC play Aslan Karatsev of Team ROC and Elena Vesnina of Team ROC during their Mixed Doubles Gold Medal match on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Tennis Park on August 01, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 01: Andrey Rublev of Team ROC and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Team ROC play Aslan Karatsev of Team ROC and Elena Vesnina of Team ROC during their Mixed Doubles Gold Medal match on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Tennis Park on August 01, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The ROC’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev spoil compatriots Elena Vesnina's birthday by defeating her and partner Aslan Karatsev in three sets to become mixed doubles Olympic champions

The ROC pair of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev beat compatriots Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev for the gold medal in the mixed doubles at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Pavlyuchenkova and Rublev won the first set 6-3, but lost the second set 6(5)-7 before winning the third 13-11 on centre court at Ariake Tennis Centre.

Pavlyuchenkova, who was runner-up at the 2021 French Open, and Rublev, a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open in 2021, beat Australia’s Ash Barty and John Peers in the semi-finals. 

The Australian pair were awarded bronze following a walkover when Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic and Novak Djokovic pulled out.

The win by the number four seeds prevented Vesnina from celebrating her birthday with an Olympic gold medal (the day of the final, 1 August, is her birthday).

The first set began quite evenly, with both pairs breaking the other's serves.

Pavlyuchenkova and Rublev made the first breakthrough, moving into a 5-2 lead before eventually winning the set 6-3.

The second set was just as even, with the games being won on serve. It eventually went to six games all and a tie-break. 

Vesnina and Karatsev won the second set 7-6(5).

The third set resulted in a thrilling 24-point match tiebreak, with Vesnina and Karatsev going out in front, 3-1, to start.

But then Pavlyuchenkova and Rublev fought back, taking tie-break to 7-7 and then moving into a 9-8 lead. 

After three gold-medal match points between both pairs, Pavlyuchenkova and Rublev overcame their rivals to win 13-11 and become the new tennis mixed doubles Olympic champions.

That means Vesnina and Karatsev took home the silver medal.

For the Russian Olympic Committee, it was a positive end to a tennis competition, and for Vesnina it may not be such an unhappy 35th birthday – she won her second Olympic medal (a silver to go alongside the gold she won in the women’s doubles in Rio in 2016), which was the ROC’s third tennis medal of the Games.

"It's amazing to play in an Olympics final," said Vesnina. "It's something you've been dreaming of your whole sports life.

"This silver feels like a gold after coming back from having a baby.”

“It's a little bit harder, you know, it's a tough job to be a mum," she added, while discussing how motherhood helped her game. " And when I came back, it was a little bit even tougher. 

“But you know what is the most important thing in your life, the best achievement in your life, and everything is behind - you know, all the losses, all the tough losses.

“In life, you can succeed, you can not succeed, but the most important (thing) is your family, your kids, your loved ones.

“So, for me, it was always the key. After the tough losses and some upsets, I always know I have a place in my heart, where my daughter is. She's always with me."