IN BEATING ROGER FEDERER AT LONDON 2012, BRITISH TENNIS PLAYER ANDY MURRAY WON THE FIRST MAJOR TITLE OF HIS CAREER. HE HAS SINCE CLAIMED THREE GRAND SLAM TITLES, SO TRAVELS TO RIO WITH HIGH HOPES OF BECOMING THE FIRST PLAYER TO RETAIN AN OLYMPIC SINGLES TITLE.
Andy Murray went to London 2012 considered as one of the “Big Four” in men’s tennis, alongside Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Yet the Scot had still to win a Grand Slam title, having lost out to either Djokovic or Federer in every final he had contested. In fact, the Swiss ace had denied him in four sets in the final at Wimbledon just three weeks before the London Games.
The 25-year-old was not to be denied on the grass of the All England Club for a second time, however, and became the first Briton to win gold since Josiah Richie, who had prevailed on the very same courts at London 1908.
The home favourite began his charge to the Olympic title by defeating Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets and then dispatching Finland’s Jarko Nieminen by the same margin. The Scot was taken to a third set by Cyprus’ Marcos Baghdatis in the third round before winning through, and then beat Nicolas Almagro of Spain 6-4, 6-1 to set up a semi-final with Djokovic.
TEAM GB’S GOLDEN BOY
Drawing on his considerable shot-making abilities and tactical acumen, Murray saw off the Serb 7-5 7-5 to move into the final against Federer, who had got the better of him to win the 2008 US Open, 2010 Australian Open and 2012 Wimbledon titles.
Yet there was to be no such outcome this time around, as Murray drew on GB team-mate Mo Farah’s stunning 10,000m win at the Olympic Stadium the previous evening for inspiration.
“I watched the athletics last night, and it was unbelievable,” recalled the tennis star after his straight-sets defeat of Federer, in the middle of which he won nine games in a row. “It was amazing to see Mo Farah run his final 400 metres in 53 seconds when I can only do it in 57 seconds when I’m fresh. That gave me the motivation to try to win the gold medal, because I wanted to be part of it if I could.”
After conjuring up an ace to seal the 16th of Team GB’s 17 gold medals of the Games, Murray, who draped the Union Jack around his shoulders for the medal ceremony, said: “It’s number one for me – the biggest win of my life. I have had a lot of tough losses in my career and this is the best way to come back from the Wimbledon final.”
Later that day, Murray teamed up with Laura Robson in the mixed-doubles final, the British pair going down 10-8 in the final set to No1 seeds Viktoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi of Belarus. In the process, the Scot became the first British player since Richie in 1908 to win tennis gold and silver.
A PLATFORM FOR GRAND SLAM SUCCESS
Murray has never looked back since claiming Olympic gold. A little over a month later, he beat Djokovic in a five-hour five-setter to land the US Open and become the first Briton since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a Grand Slam event. He made another piece of tennis history at Wimbledon the following year, downing Djokovic in straight sets in the final to succeed Perry as the last British winner of the tournament.
Murray added to his collection of trophies by steering Great Britain to Davis Cup glory in 2015, going unbeaten in his 11 singles and doubles matches and inspiring his team to a 3-1 defeat of Belgium in the final in Ghent. It was a victory that ended his country’s 79-year wait to lift the famous “salad bowl”.
Victorious in Rome and at Queen’s this season, the Scot lost out to Djokovic in the Australian and French Open finals before claiming his second Wimbledon title in July, courtesy of a straight-sets defeat of Canada’s Milos Raonic in the final.
Looking ahead to the Games, which will be played on hard courts at Barra Olympic Park and where he will look to become the first player to retain an Olympic singles title, Murray said: “The Olympics are important to me. I loved the whole experience, both at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, where I won gold. It makes you realise just how special they are.”