LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN: Andy Murray is the Olympic men’s singles champion after sensationally defeating Roger Federer 62 61 64 at Wimbledon on Sunday afternoon. The 25-year-old becomes the first British player to win a singles gold medal at the Olympics since Josiah Ritchie achieved the feat over a century ago at the Games of London 1908.
Four weeks ago today, Federer was standing on Centre Court holding the Wimbledon trophy aloft for a record-equalling seventh time, while Murray cut a dejected figure as he watched on with the runner-up medal and his dreams in tatters. How times have changed. As he stood on top of the Olympic podium, his mind must have wandered back to all those occasions he has played second fiddle to Federer and Co... this was Murray’s moment.
Backed by a passionate British crowd, he came of age and produced the type of performance on the big stage that his rivals have delivered against him time and time again in recent years. Federer was all at sea and didn’t have an answer, blown away by Murray’s speed and skill around the baseline, although it didn’t start off that way for the No. 3 seed.
In the opening game of the match, Murray was immediately forced to dig deep as he battled back from 15-40 to hold. He used that as a base and went on to break Federer in the sixth game as the Wimbledon champion failed to capitalise on three game points. Murray made him pay the price. Two games later, he secured a double break to win the first set 6-2 in 37 minutes.
Murray also won the first set in the Wimbledon final, which he ended up losing in four, so alarm bells weren’t ringing for Federer yet. That soon changed, however, when the Brit continued the momentum into the second set and broke to lead 3-0, and then again to open up a 5-0 gap. Federer held his serve to get himself on the board, but Murray immediately quashed any hopes of a comeback, taking the second set 6-1 in 46 minutes. Bizarrely, it was the longest set of the match.
Federer started serving better in the third set and restricted his opponent’s chances of breaking. However, the world No. 1’s returning game went on holiday and Murray won four consecutive service games without dropping a single point. That put extra pressure on Federer’s own serve and he eventually crumbled in the seventh game, leaving Murray just two holds away from the gold medal. No problem for the Brit, he sealed victory in 1 hour 56 minutes to taste Centre Court glory for the first time in his career.
The major difference for Murray in this tournament, particularly in his semifinal win over Novak Djokovic, has been that whenever an opportunity has come his way, he’s grasped it with both hands. The key stat in today's match against Federer was the break point conversion rate. The world No. 1 was zero from nine, while Murray was five from ten.
"In a lot of ways the scoreline is irrelevant, but when I look back on the match it will be one that I'll look at as the biggest win of my career for sure," said Murray. "It's definitely one of the best matches I played. I dealt with all the situations that were in front of me well.
"There were some important moments in the match, right at the start of the match, important not to underestimate how the first few games are where I saved some breakpoints, then also the two-love game in the third set. We had some really long games in the Wimbledon final, as well, in the third set, and he got them.
"Also in the Wimbledon final, I had chances in the second set to break and didn't get them. Today I converted those chances, and that gave me the momentum for the rest of the match. If those games or those points had gone the other way, it could have been a different match, but I took my chances today. I think I deserved to win."
The big question for Murray is whether he can use this win as a platform to go on and beat the likes of Federer and Djokovic - and Rafael Nadal - at the Grand Slams. This result could prove to be a catalyst in his career, only time will tell. For now, Murray will enjoy the status of being an Olympic gold medallist at his home Games.
It could still get better for Murray, too. He is due back on Centre Court later with Laura Robson as he attempts to become a double Olympic gold medallist. The British duo are taking on Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi, the No. 1 seeds from Belarus, in the mixed doubles final.
For Federer, his Olympic dream of winning the singles gold medal is over for another four years, although he's not ruling out returning at Rio 2016 for another crack at it. "I hope so. I said it before the tournament that it's not impossible that I could take part in Rio," said Federer, who won the doubles gold medal with Stanislas Wawrinka in Beijing.
"I am satisfied. I think this is as good as I could do during these championships. Andy was much better than I was today in many aspects of the game. For me, it's been a great month. I won Wimbledon, became world No. 1 again and I got silver. Don't feel too bad for me.
"I am very, very proud honestly to have won a silver. Had a very emotional tournament from start to finish. I could have lost in the first round against (Alejandro) Falla. Same thing obviously with (Juan Martin) del Potro. I felt like I won my silver, I didn't lose it. So I feel very, very happy."