Photo: Eisele/Giubilo/ZimmerAndy Murray (GBR)
LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN: Andy Murray has reached the men’s singles final amid extraordinary scenes at the Olympic Tennis Event. The British No. 1 defeated Novak Djokovic 75 75 in exactly two hours as Centre Court reached fever pitch with darkness falling.
"The atmosphere is unbelievable," said Murray. "Different to pretty much anything I've been in before. I obviously played in big matches, night matches at the US Open we always said was the best atmosphere, but it's not even close to what it was today."
Murray was clearly fired up as play got under way and he immediately engineered two break points in Djokovic’s opening service game, but the Serb dragged himself back from 15-40 to hold.
Both players then settled down and traded blows from the back of the court with incredible pace, accuracy and athleticism. However, the serve was becoming king and there were no more chances to break for either player until the final game of the set.
With Djokovic serving at 5-6, Murray made his move and got the elusive break point - a set point - he’d been looking for. Djokovic took the onus and came to the net, only to see a forehand pass fly beyond him for a winner. First blood to Murray.
Djokovic lifted his game straight away and reached his first break point of the match in the opening game of the second set, but this time it was Murray’s turn to dip into the reserves and stave off the danger. It would be a sign of things to come.
Time and again Djokovic’s attacks on the Murray serve were fended off with dogged determination, but at the other end the Scot just couldn’t make an impression on his returning games.
Murray saved another break point at 4-4, and then yet another one at 5-5, both times heaping the pressure back on Djokovic. Then it happened! With the Serb serving to stay in the match at 5-6, Murray finally strung four returning points together and broke to love.
"He played better in the important moments," said Djokovic, the bronze medallist in Beijing four years ago. "He served extremely well, used that element in his game efficiently when he needed to.
"I had a lot of break balls in the second set. Practically every service game I had chance in the second set to make a break, especially the one on five-all. It's a disappointing loss, but he deserves to be in the finals."
Murray now faces Roger Federer in a repeat of their Wimbledon showdown a few weeks ago. On that occasion, the Swiss world No. 1 prevailed to win a record-equalling seventh title, but this time a gold medal is at stake.
Federer advanced to the final after a marathon semifinal clash with Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina. The 17-time Grand Slam champion triumphed 36 76(5) 19-17 in 4 hours 26 minutes, which is the longest known match in Olympic tennis history.
"I want to try and win," said Murray. "I don't think going into matches trying to get revenge for something that's happened in the past really helps. I think you need to try and focus on the future.
"The one thing I hope on Sunday, he's not played for the gold medal in singles before, and most times when I played him he's experienced the situations way, way more times than me. He probably played eight Wimbledon finals or something like that. For me, it was my first one.
"It's so rare for him to be in a position where he's trying to do something new because he's achieved so much in tennis. I hope that will even things out a little bit.
"It's going to be a tough match. Obviously I'll need to play great tennis to win. I hope it's a great match because I think the way the matches went today, I think the tournament deserves a great final. I hope we can provide that."
The men’s singles final, which will be best-of-five-sets, is scheduled for Sunday, while Djokovic and del Potro will also need to pick themselves up and dust themselves off to compete for the bronze medal.
Follow all the action from the Olympic Tennis Event with: Live Scores