LONDON — Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates stopped by Horse Guards Parade to watch beach volleyball on Saturday night and saw Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor eliminate the Netherlands before the bells in Big Ben's clock tower could toll the half-hour.
"That is the Kerri and Misty people come to see," May-Treanor said after advancing to the Olympic quarterfinals with a 21-13, 21-12 victory over Marleen van Iersel and Sanne Keizer. "That's what we want to play like. We just keep elevating each time out."
That's a frightening prospect for the rest of the women's draw at the London Games.
One match after the two-time gold medalists lost a set for the first time in 17 Olympic contests – and one day after the top U.S. men's team was eliminated – May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings were barely challenged by the defending European champions.
It took just 30 minutes.
"That worked against us, I'm afraid. They were eager not to lose another set, so they played very well," said Van Iersel, who thought the lost set might be a sign of vulnerability. "That's what we were hoping, anyway. But we knew their focus was so strong. And you can see it in their play."
After the match, Gates and his wife, Melinda, waited patiently for the Americans to finish talking to reporters before having a chance to chat. The tech mogul said he had also watched beach volleyball in Sydney and Beijing.
Asked what he thought of the Americans' victory, he said, "It was fantastic."
Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor won gold medals in Athens and Beijing without losing a set. That streak was snapped on Wednesday in the final of the round-robin.
"I want us to be perfect, but we're human," Walsh Jennings said. "That's what makes us us. We've been in every single situation."
The match started when nearby Big Ben tolled 9 o'clock. And it was over before the bells could peal the half-hour.
In all, the two-time defending champions have won 18 consecutive Olympic matches.
"We have three matches to go," Walsh Jennings said.
Also Saturday, Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal beat Russia in straight sets to keep alive the U.S. hopes of a second consecutive men's gold. The American men, who finished fifth in Beijing, beat Sergey Prokopiev and Konstantin Semenov 21-14, 22-20.
On Friday, defending Olympic champions Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser were eliminated in the round of 16 by Italy.
"It hit me, for sure," Walsh Jennings said. "I feel for those guys. It got me thinking and it made me reaffirm that I don't want anything to do with that."
Rosenthal said he took the loss personally, but it didn't change his outlook on the Olympics.
"We came into this tournament wanting to win for ourselves," he said. "We want Rogers and Dalhausser to still be in it, but it doesn't change the pressure we put on ourselves."
May-Treanor said she didn't need the Rogers and Dalhausser loss to remind her that there were plenty of dangerous teams in London.
"This is my last Olympics," she said. "For me, it's every time I'm out there, I don't want this to be my last match."