After being the first Briton in 74 years to play in the Wimbledon men’s final last month, this Sunday, Andy Murray will try to become the first British tennis player to win a gold medal at an Olympics since Josiah Ritchie in the 1908 games, which were coincidentally also in London.
Without losing his serve the entire match and beating former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Murray clinched a spot in the Olympic final, guaranteeing a medal for Great Britain.The 25-year-old Scotsman faces Roger Federer for the coveted gold medal in these Olympics, only a month removed from his crushing loss at the hands of that same opponent at Wimbledon 2012.
“Probably the most emotional match I’ve played,” said Andy Murray in a post-match interview with NBC’s John McEnroe. Andy’s tearful speech after his loss to Federer in the Wimbledon final last month was a moment his country could rally around, and it displayed humility and poise under the collapsing pressure and enormous disappointment of the defeat.
In these Olympics, Murray may have more pressure on him than any other athlete. Other than 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, and the Great British men’s soccer team, no athlete is cheered for or criticized more often than Andy Murray.
Murray’s country was in full voice Friday, making Centre Court at Wimbledon feel “unbelievable,” and saying that there was a “different atmosphere to Wimbledon,” unlike the traditional tournament, and “this felt more like a concert than a tennis match.”
McEnroe, later in an interview on NBC with Mary Carillo, said that finally the English crowd stopped being “so damn polite” and was “vociferous” with waving flags and “chanting GB.” It finally got Murray “fired up and into it.”
“There’s pressure on both (Roger and me),” Murray said after his semifinal match. “The pressure of winning a gold medal is something he’s not experienced before.” New territory and unseen pressures are something Roger Federer has not dealt with for a decade, but if this opportunity and the atmosphere of the home crowd can rattle the Swiss great’s patented steel nerves, Murray may be able to capitalize.
Federer, coming off a semifinal match with Juan Martin del Potro that lasted 4 hours 26 minutes, an Open-era record for the longest three-set match ever, may be a bit tired; however, Murray knows not to expect anything less than full effort from his opponent.
Murray, 25, may have other chances to win Olympic gold, but few other places carry the weight and importance of home country and the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon. A gold medal triumph in Rio de Janeiro would not mean as much.
This may not be a grand slam, but it is a gold medal, one which British tennis has not earned since 1908. To achieve it in London, at the greatest venue in the sport, would be a major accomplishment and a steppingstone on which Murray could expand his career and have the confidence to win the Grand Slam title that has eluded him.
The favor for Andy Murray may not be felt by everyone, but for the host nation of these Olympic Games, there are few athletes they would love to see win more than him. McEnroe summarized perfectly, saying: “Listen, I’m a huge Federer fan, but I’m rooting for Murray. It’d be huge for tennis and obviously huge for Great Britain.”