Photo: Eisele/Giubilo/ZimmerJuan Martin del Potro (ARG) v Roger Federer (SUI)
LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN: It was a stunning day at the Olympic Tennis Event on Friday as the finalists were decided in the singles events. Roger Federer and Andy Murray prevailed in nail-biting fashion in the men’s semifinals, while Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova had an easier time in the women’s semifinals. All four players will be competing in their first Olympic singles final,
Federer opened the day on Centre Court against Juan Martin del Potro in what turned out to be the longest known best-of-three-sets singles match in tennis history. The Swiss world No. 1 eventually came through 36 76(5) 19-17 after 4 hours 26 minutes of intense battle, but it took every ounce of his skill and tenacity to shake off the Argentine.
Murray fought out an equally competitive victory over world No. 2 Novak Djokovic amid incredible scenes on Centre Court. The Scot broke the Serb once in each set, at 6-5 both times, to claim a 75 75 win, with the full support of the British fans who united as one behind their hero.
“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.”
Federer and Murray will meet on Sunday in what will be a repeat of their Wimbledon final four weeks ago to the day on the very same court. On that occasion, the 17-time Grand Slam champion prevailed in four sets to equal Pete Sampras’s record of seven titles, but this time a gold medal is at stake and both players are in new territory.
Williams was in devastating form as she hammered world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka 61 62 with an utterly ruthless performance on Centre Court. The American didn’t offer her Belarusian opponent a single break point in the match as her trusty serve once again delivered on the biggest stage. She struck 16 aces and no double faults.
Sharapova was also in control for the majority of her match against fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko on No. 1 Court, eventually winning 62 63. Apart from a very short spell in the middle of the second set when she found herself a break down, the world No. 3 produced a dominant display that suggests she may be able to cause Williams a few more problems than Azarenka managed.
Williams and Sharapova will go head-to-head on Saturday afternoon in what promises to be an intriguing clash. The pair have met 10 times and Serena leads the series 8-2, although Sharapova will draw strength from her victory in the Wimbledon final, also on Centre Court, in 2004.
The doubles events also progressed on Friday, although there were a couple of late cancellations which affect the weekend schedule. The mixed doubles is particularly hampered by this with two matches still to be completed to fill up the semifinal line-up.
USA’s Bob and Mike Bryan will meet France’s Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the men’s doubles final, following wins over Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet 64 64 and David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez 63 46 18-16 respectively.
Czech duo Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka sealed their spot in the women’s doubles final, but they now await the winner of the postponed match between Serena and Venus Williams of USA and Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova of Russia. The Czechs defeated No. 1 seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond 61 76(2) in the semifinals.
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