Bold Murray strikes gold to banish Wimbledon heartache
Scot savours 'biggest win of my life' after turning the tables on World No 1 Federer
It was a day when nothing was going to stop Andy Murray. Britain's best male player for three-quarters of a century had looked like a man on a mission from the moment he started his singles campaign at the Olympic tournament at the All England Club, and yesterday he brought his quest for gold to a glorious conclusion.
Just four weeks after Roger Federer had beaten him here for the third time in a row in a Grand Slam final, the 25-year-old Scot turned the tables on the greatest player of all time to become Britain's first tennis gold medallist for 104 years.
His 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory was every bit as convincing as the margin suggested. It bore comparison with Rafael Nadal's defeat of the Swiss maestro on clay in the French Open final of 2008, when the Spaniard dropped only four games.
The fact that Murray's crushing victory took place on the patch of grass that Federer has all but made his own for the last 10 years, and where British dreams have so often died, made it all the more remarkable.
Throughout the tournament Murray has been fired-up like never before. The world No 4 admits that he can come across as a less than positive character on court, but the support of perhaps the most vocal and patriotic crowd the All England Club has ever welcomed has lifted him to new heights. The volume on Centre Court, which was again a sea of Union flags and hats, reached a thunderous crescendo as he closed in on his victory.
Murray has relished the opportunity to be part of a team in a sport which is normally all about individual endeavour. He said the support of the crowd had given him the motivation to win.
"You see how much it means to all of the athletes," he said. "I just wanted to try and be part of that if I could. The atmosphere in all of the stadiums, when everyone's won gold medals in all of the sports, everyone's just been so happy and pumped. I'm just glad I've been able to contribute to that."
He described the victory as the biggest of his career and said it had been made even more special by previous disappointments. "To win today, in the way that I did, makes those losses a little bit easier to take," he said. "It has been tough at times."
In truth Murray did not have to play nearly as well as he had when he beat Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals. Federer, who has never won an Olympic singles title, admitted that Murray had been much the better player. The 30-year-old Swiss added: "He didn't have a let-down after the Wimbledon final. It's easy to come back, best of three, and maybe go out in the third round. You just feel horrible. But he didn't do that. He came, he won gold. I think this is how champions react."
Federer appeared drained by his marathon on Friday against Juan Martin del Potro, who went on to claim the bronze by beating Djokovic 7-5, 6-4. Murray, nevertheless, spent more time on court over the week than Federer, who had a day of rest to prepare for the final, whereas the Scot had to play two mixed doubles matches on Saturday.
From the moment the Centre Court roof opened – it had been closed during the preceding women's doubles final because of rain – you sensed that this was going to be Murray's day. Federer, who invariably performs well indoors, took advantage of the closing of the roof during the Wimbledon final, but on this occasion the rain held off.
Even fortune went Murray's way. When he broke Federer's serve in the second game of the second set he benefited from the ball flicking off the top of the net and beyond the world No 1's reach on two successive points.
Murray had to save two break points in the opening game but was soon into his stride. When he broke to lead 3-2 the roar from the crowd was so loud that the roof would surely have been blown off had it not already been pulled back.
With an uncharacteristically lacklustre Federer misfiring and Murray hitting the ball consistently well, the Scot won nine games in a row to take a 5-0 lead in the second set. The only time when Federer upped his tempo was in the third game of the second set, but Murray hung on, saving six break points.
The Scot dropped only one point on his serve in the third set and broke for the last time in the fifth game. If he felt any nerves when he served for the match, he never showed them, securing the title with two aces in a row, upon which he dropped his racket and put his hands to his face.
Murray appeared almost in a daze as he walked over to the stand and climbed over one of the commentary boxes – with the helping hand of Tony Godsick, Federer's agent – to join his entourage in his player box. He hugged his girlfriend, Kim Sears, his parents Judy and Willie, and every member of his support team.
"I felt surprisingly calm," Murray said. "I don't know if it was because we had the mixed doubles coming up or not, if I was just still really focused or not, or if it just hasn't sunk in yet. But I know when I get the chance to sit down with all of the guys and celebrate with my family tonight, I'm sure I'll get emotional again because it's been the best week in my tennis career by a mile."
Having been in tears following his defeat in the Wimbledon final, Murray managed to hold them back, even during the medal ceremony. He was presented with the gold by René Fasal, a Swiss member of the International Olympic Committee, which perhaps gave an indication as to who the bigwigs had expected to win.
Jacques Rogge, the president of the IOC, and Lord Coe, the London 2012 chairman, were among those present to witness the crowning of Britain's first male singles Olympic champion since the London Games of 1908, when Arthur "Wentworth" Gore won the indoor title at Queen's Club, and Major Josiah Ritchie took the prize in the outdoor event at Wimbledon's former home in Worple Road.
Asked whether he would swap his Olympic gold for the Wimbledon title, Murray said: "I would love to win Wimbledon, for sure. But this felt good. I wouldn't change this for anything right now."
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