Andy Murray Successfully Defends his Olympic Gold Medal

Aug 14, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Andy Murray (GBR) shows off his gold medal in the medal ceremony for men s singles tennis at Olympic Tennis Centre during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 14, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Andy Murray (GBR) shows off his gold medal in the medal ceremony for men s singles tennis at Olympic Tennis Centre during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

After yet another epic match that has defined tennis at the Rio Games, and the result that came with it there really is only one question left to ask: has the balance of power on the men’s side shifted?

Andy Murray had already made a statement this summer about where his game was at this stage of his career. Its obvious that the current world number two wants to end Djokovic’s reign at the top of the game.

Murray started his year reaching the final at the first two slam’s of the year at the Australian and French Opens only to loose to Djokovic both times.

It really was hard to not feel bad for Murray; in any other era his resume is good enough to be number one in the world for a long time. It includes a  .778 career win percentage (598-171), with 39 tour level titles, 12 ATP Masters level crowns which is third all time, two Wimbledon’s, a U.S. Open, at least one title every year since 2006 including six in 2009, and two gold medals among other achievements.

That is a hall of fame resume, and yet he is diminished as another pawn in Djokovic’s world because of his inability to beat his rival head-to-head. In 2015, the men’s game did belong to Djokovic, and for the first four months of 2016 nothing changed.

Wimbledon changed all of that, and it didn’t take them to face to one another. Djokovic’s loss to American Sam Querrey in the second round ended his chances of a calendar year grand slam, and for the first time serious questions arose about his physical and more so his mental state: had the pressure of expectations and history finally gotten to Djokovic?

After this upset, Murray suddenly became the favorite to win his second Wimbledon title, and he took advantage beating Canada’s Milos Raonic in the final.

After winning his record fifth Queen’s Club title, Murray had suddenly won back-to-back titles, and the gap between Djokovic and Murray at the top was closing quickly.

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Despite all of Murray’s success and Djokovic’s failure, the world number one was still the overwhelming favorite to win his first gold medal in Rio.

Instead, Djokovic was bounced in the first round by world number 141 Juan Martin Del Potro, and Murray became the first Olympian to successfully defend his singles gold medal defeating Del Potro in four thrilling sets 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.

The relentless Argentine gave it all he had, and despite being on court for more than 19 hours coming into the match, Del Potro fed off the crowd’s energy, seemingly gaining more adrenaline with every cheer especially at the end of sets.

Normally, a match that features 35 break of serve opportunities with 15 of those chances converted, and a combined 102 unforced errors isn’t thought of as epic, but it was all that and more. Every emotion was in play, and despite their shortcomings, at different times in the match the best parts of Murray’s and Del Potro’s games was on full display.

In the opening set, Murray only managed to get his first serve in play 39 percent of the time and won just 80 percent of the points. Despite getting his second serve in play 91 percent of the time, he won the point just 43 percent of the time.

That is not a recipe for winning a set, and yet Murray’s speed, and defensive skills made up for his atrocious serve play. Del Potro served better than Murray, but the Brit broke him three times, and won 49 percent of his receiving points. Murray’s athleticism at the net was the difference; in that part of the court he won 89 percent of the points.

Murray actually improved his first serve percentage in the second set by taking more speed off of it, but once again Del Potro was superior with his first serve, and this time he won more receiving points (38 to 29 percent).

Murray’s first serve percentage was back under 50 percent, but when he did put it in the correct white box, he won the point 89 percent of the time. Murray’s manipulation of Del Potro’s serve and forehand combination was once again on display making Del Potro move from side to side on the baseline, and that combined several long rallies continued to fatigue Del Potro’s already tired legs. When Del Potro tried to go to the net, Murray always had the answer often coming up with winners on the left sideline with Del Potro running.

Just when it looked like Del Potro had run out of gas, he would come back and for a while it looked like this match would go the distance. But in the end, as predicted, less time on court was the difference. Leading six games to five in the fourth, Murray exposed Del Potro’s weakness one last time attacking with a forehand to the back hand side, and Del Potro missed the slice giving Murray his second gold medal.

This feat is something that the other members of the big four (Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal), players that have owned Murray in the past, can’t say they’ve done.

The match was unpredictable, unbearable at times, and in other instances the shot making and will to win every point was simply unbelievable. The longest match of the games needing four hours and eight minutes to complete, will be remembered 100 years from now for both good and bad reasons: maybe this is where the format finally changes, and when all of doubters about tennis as an Olympic sport realize that this event is better with tennis in it.

As the ATP Tour shifts its focus to the Cincinnati Masters, where Murray will be the number one seed, suddenly it finally looks as if Murray is ready to be the new world number one.

Let’s let the U.S. Open, and hopefully another final clash between Murray and Djokovic decide that. Nobody would want it to happen any other way, expect of course the other players.

This will take a lot of time for everybody to take in, but we were all lucky to witness it. That’s for sure.

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