While the Olympics didn’t matter to the world’s golfing Fab Four it as sure as Sugarloaf Mountain is big mattered to the top dogs in tennis.
The proof of that was in Andy Murray’s tearful celebration upon winning Olympic gold on Rio’s Centre Court here on Sunday when he beat Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina in four sets.
Murray won 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in four hours to cap a magical day for GB who had already won two golds in gymnastics, courtesy of Max Whitlock, one in cycling thanks to Jason Kenny and one in golf via Justin Rose, Murray’s new buddy who he has been mixing with during these Games. They can now compare golds on the flight home.
The victory also caps a memorable summer for Murray who, of course, won his second Wimbledon title this year when he beat Milos Raonic in straight sets in the final.
Murray was incredibly proud to be Team GB’s flag-bearer at the Opening Ceremony and, before the final, he spoke of the desire not to let the side down by failing to contribute to the medal mania. Murray, worry no more.
He also gave a rousing eve-of-competition speech to Team GB – the top brass were impressed by his eloquence and passion - which seems to have done the trick. When the legs are gone, motivational speaking could keep the money rolling in. He also changed his mind about living outside the Athletes’ Village within 12 hours of landing in Rio, preferring to be part of the group.
He will be a popular winner within Team GB. He was not universally supported within the 10,000-seater Centre Court where the atmosphere was a bizarre mix. The locals were favouring Murray due to the nationality of his opponent but a good chunk of bouncing Argentinians were roaring on their man and jeering the Scot. It was a far cry from Wimbledon.
Murray, the first man to win back-to back Olympic titles in the tennis, held serve in the first game as the noise in the stadium rose and took his third break point in the second when he pinned Del Potro back beyond the baseline and ran in for the volley kill.
The Argentinian broke in the third game but the Scot replied to love for 3-1 with Del Potro looking cumbersome and tired.
The conditions were perfect with barely a breeze in the air, a pleasant change from some of the earlier rounds when the wind had played havoc with the groundstrokes.
But Murray’s serve was faltering nonetheless (he got just 39 per cent of his first serves in in the opening set) and he was broken again. At 6-5, though, he sealed the decisive break after a monumental rally when he cracked a backhand past Del Potro. Just the 74 minutes for set one.
In the second set it was Del Potro who found his mojo, breaking Murray in the first game. The blue and white clad Argentinian fans were bouncing in the stands, determined to enjoy the occasion, win or lose.
Del Potro with some booming groundstrokes won the set 6-4, one point in the 10th game seeming to last longer than the Opening Ceremony so good was Murray’s retrieving of seemingly lost causes. The Argentinian, upon eventually putting the winner away, could only grin.
In the sixth game of the third set, an amazing forehand cross court winner from Murray when the ball was behind him led to a break, an almighty scream of “come on” from the Scot and howls of derision from the Argentinians.
“Come on Andy, come on!” rang out whenever the Argentinian noise dipped but was soon met with more pro-Del Potro chants in a crowd split 50-50 in terms of support. Murray broke again to seal the third set 6-2.
The fourth set was incredible, featuring seven breaks of serve. With the adrenaline pumping and perhaps the smell of gold in his nostrils, Murray was broken in the first game as he went long with three groundstrokes.
He sealed the break back at once with a drop shot of immense audacity. An amazing rally which finished with both men at the net, noses almost touching, was finished off by a Del Potro volley as he too broke back straight away.
With the grunts from the tiring players becoming more audible – as well as a Murray obscenity for which he was warned - there was a fourth consecutive break from Murray to make it 2-2 as the match hit 3hr 15min.
But much to Murray’s anger he was broken again in a breathless match: 4-3 Del Potro. “Argentina, Argentina” rang out and was met with booing. With Del Potro serving for the set at 5-4 Murray created more break points, one after an amazing rally that left the Argentinian hanging on the net, exhausted. Murray eventually broke when Del Potro put a tired backhand into the net: 5-5.
Murray then held despite facing break points. It was crucial. In the next game Murray created match point, couldn’t take the first when he put a forehand into the net – but took the next when Del Potro netted. Murray was in tears, Del Potro was in tears. The crowd roared their “Oles”. The Argentinians clapped.
It was an amazing match and a worthy winner.
The stars have aligned somewhat for Murray in this tournament: No Federer, Djokovic knocked out, ditto Nadal and Del Potro having a monster semi-final against Nadal while Murray was sipping caipirinhas on Copacabana after breezing past Kei Nishikori in just 80 minutes.
There were also echoes of London 2012 when Murray beat an exhausted Federer in the final, the Swiss having won a gruelling four-set match against Del Potro.
But none of that matters, you can only beat whoever is front of you – and Murray has done just that. Flag-bearer and now gold-medal wearer.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies