Kei Nishikori (JPN) of Japan celebrates after winning his match against Rafael Nadal to claim the bronze medal
Image credit: Reuters
Having lost to Britain's defending Olympic champion Andy Murray in the semi-finals, Nishikori seized his opportunity to win a medal at the Spaniard's expense with a 6-2 6-7(1) 6-3 win.
The fourth seed took the opening set with consummate ease, losing just two games as Nadal looked weary and lethargic by comparison.
The second set followed a similar pattern, with Nishikori racing into a double break, until a sudden collapse saw Nadal storm back from 5-2 behind to take the set on a tie-break.
Undeterred, the world No.7 set duly bounced back to win the final set and clinch a maiden Olympic medal.
For Nadal, who at least triumphed with gold in the men's doubles, it was a disappointing performance, but an encouraging tournament after persistent injuries.
But the moment belonged to Nishikori as he took bronze to come away with a deserved medal - and one which he was delighted with.
[SCHEDULE - What's already happened, what's coming up]
Quarter-finals, Day 12
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Women's Singles, Day 3