Murray's Olympic Victory
In this heady Olympic year for Britain, Murray joined the pantheon of British sporting heroes of Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Rob Ainsley, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy and many others. Murray became a key contributor to Britain’s ‘Golden Weekend’
Centre Court was a mixture of familiarity and novelty – the familiar, traditional space altered slightly by the standard purple Olympics logos. Another notable feature was the lower level of intensity of the early August sunlight, less bright and intense than that of late June Wimbledon.
Like the Davis Cup, there was also the strong emphasis on it being a team event – a strong motivator of patriotic fervour. Strangely similar to the boxing events in which competitors wear either blue or red or outfits, Murray appeared in blue and Federer in Swiss red for the final. This sac- religious act against Wimbledon’s tradition of ‘all-white’ attire jarred slightly and must have caused Dan Maskell to turn in his grave. But these are modern times we live in. There was barely any sign of white to be seen on Centre Court, except ironically for the bleached players’ change-of-end towels, a surreal feature as even the button-downed Wimbledon event provides towels in the green and purple All-England colours. Notably, Murray sported wristbands with the design of the blue and white of Scotland, perhaps a gesture to his roots on a day when he was representing the whole of Britain. This was all of a part for a magical day that was to upset the form book and to deliver an ecstatic day of tennis for Murray and for Britain.
The real delight of the Olympic final for fans was the fact that it was a reprise of the Wimbledon final of only a month earlier. Had Murray recovered from that psychological blow or would Federer, the best player in tennis history, assert his dominance? Federer had beaten Del Potro in an epic semi-final with a 19-17 final set and Murray had slain the Djokovic dragon. Everything was teed up for a memorable final.
From the get-go, it became clear that the crowd were of a more partisan nature than the usual Wimbledon crowd, a factor working in Murray’s favour. On the other hand, Murray had encountered Federer in three previous Grand Slam finals and had lost all three.
A strong breeze was evident from the beginning, a factor that seemed to work against Federer’s precision game. The first break of serve went to Murray who went 4-2 ahead and closed out the first set 6-2 after breaking the Federer serve for the second time.
A mild irritation coming over Federer, he began to make a number of simple errors early in the second set. Murray’s serve was working well for him and he was also able to command the baseline tussle with Federer. Such was Murray’s dominance that he had a 10-game winning streak to go 5-0 up in the second set and after Federer won his first service game of the set, Murray finally clinched the set 6-1. As Tim Henman opined from the BBC commentary box, Murray was seeing the positive pay-off of focusing on process not on outcome. Things looked bleak for the World No. 1 who had failed to ignite throughout the match to date. Murray was on a roll, backed vociferously by a partisan crowd.
In the third set, Murray continued to dominate from the baseline. A crucial moment came when Murray broke the Federer serve to go 3-2 ahead. Murray’s serving in the third and final set was superb, winning 17 straight points on his own serve. He closed out the match with a majestic service game that totally overwhelmed Federer, making the final score 6-2; 6-1; 6-4. The crowd was ecstatic and proud for Murray who showed his ability to bounce back from his recent defeat to Federer on the same court a month earlier.
In interview afterwards with Sue Barker, Murray described it as the biggest win of his career. As he left Barker, he was collared by John McEnroe for the obligatory interview with US television – Murray now an even more precious commodity on the international media circuit. Murray beat the best player in the world in under 2 hours – no mean achievement – and on his way to the final also beat the great Djokovic. In the process, he delivered for Team GB its first tennis Gold medal since 1908. Given the scale and prestige of the event, there has been much talk of making the Olympics event a 5th Grand Slam – the event certainly holds the appeal of both the players and the fans to support the idea.
In the wider context of the Olympics as a whole, Murray’s win was more icing on the cake for a memorable weekend for Team GB and a victory that is bound to increase the Olympic ‘feelgood factor’ across the nation.
Paul McElhinney 5 August 2012