Just four weeks ago, Andy Murray was reduced to tears on Centre Court when his quest to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since 1936 ended in a four-set defeat to Roger Federer.
Sunday, on the same weathered grass court, Murray claimed the greatest prize of his career — one he shared with all of Britain — by defeating the peerless Swiss champion to win Olympic gold in men’s singles at the All England Club.
- Click the above image to see a gallery of highlights from Day 9.
Murray wept again, this time with joy and disbelief, upon clinching the 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory that was stunning in its lopsided decisiveness, over in 1 hour 56 minutes.
“I was expecting it to be an incredibly tough match,” the 25-year-old Scot said in a post-match on-court interview with NBC. “No way did I expect a scoreline like that in the final.”
Murray was simply brilliant in all facets of the game — his serve, his service return, his defense, his offense, his tactics and his resolve.
With an all-out attack, Murray broke Federer in four of the Swiss champion’s first six service games. And Federer, who was seeking to become just the third man in tennis history and fifth player overall to claim a Golden Slam by winning Olympic gold and all four majors, was reduced to a misfiring mess. He finished with 31 unforced errors and only 24 winners.
After getting steamrolled in the first two sets, Federer had to reel off three consecutive sets to win Olympic singles gold and complete the Golden Slam he covets.
And he steadied himself reasonably well. At least for three games.
But with the third set on serve at 2-2, Federer’s uncharacteristic gaffes returned. He hit balls into the net; others sailed long and wide. He muffed volleys that he typically nails with a smile. He summoned power when touch was in order. At times, it seemed as if Federer had lost track of where the court’s lines were.
And Murray, who had never beaten Federer on Center Court’s grass, kept the pressure on like an unshakable veteran, the quality of his play never wavering in the face of the Swiss meltdown.
In minutes, Murray was up 4-2 in the third set. With yet another break of serve and a hold, the Scot would claim another Olympic gold for Britain. At times, Federer seemed Murray’s best ally, miss-hitting one ball after another.
But the great champion was graceful in defeat, congratulating Murray with a broad smile and a hug at Centre Court and quickly exited stage left to allow the Scot to soak in the moment. After beating Murray at Wimbledon, Federer was highly complimentary of Murray and restated his belief that the Brit would eventually win a major.
The Olympics may not be one of the sport’s four Grand Slams, but for the man who for years has carried the burden of the British Isles on his back each time he takes the court at Wimbledon, Sunday’s victory was truly grand.
“I’ve had a lot of tough losses in my career, but this is the best way to come back from the Wimbledon final,” Murray said. “I’ll never forget it.
Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro, who fell to Federer in a marathon semifinal Friday, knocked off world No. 2 Novak Djokovic, 7-5, 6-4, to claim bronze. The medal was the first for an Argentine athlete at the London Games.