Even as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic kept racking up one record after another, Andy Murray ensured the conversation was about the ‘big four’ in men’s tennis during his peak, and not just the ‘big three’. While his three Grand Slam victories and reaching world No 1 will remain a huge part of his legacy, the back-to-back gold medals for Great Britain at the Olympic Games set him apart from his legendary peers.
Indeed Murray is the only tennis player, male or female, to win consecutive gold medals in the singles event at the Olympics.
The first of these triumphs came at the London Games in 2012, playing on home turf at the All England Club. Just a few weeks earlier at Wimbledon, Murray had reached the final where he lost to Federer after taking the first set. But the duo then met again in the final of the Olympics and this time it was the Brit who came out on top.
Murray was the third seed in that event as defending champion Nadal had pulled out due to a knee injury. He defeated Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka and Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen in straight sets in the opening two rounds, before edging out Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in three sets in the third round.
After easing past Spain’s Nicolas Almagro in the quarter-finals, the then 25-year-old was up against rival Djokovic in the semis. The Serb was seeded second but it was Murray who was the favourite going into that match considering his grass court form. And he showed his superiority by earning a 7-5, 7-5 win to guarantee himself a podium finish.
In the final, Murray was up against top seed Federer and the match was a best of five sets contest. The Swiss would’ve fancied his chances having got the better of Murray at Wimbledon but the home favourite put in a remarkable performance to claim a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory.
“It’s number one for me – the biggest win of my life,” Murray had said after that match. “I have had a lot of tough losses in my career and this is the best way to come back from the Wimbledon final. I didn’t expect that at the start of the week. I thought I’d go deep into the tournament but I felt so fresh today. It’s amazing.”
Murray had a phenomenal run in 2012-’13. He won the London Olympics gold, his first Grand Slam title later that year at the US Open, and he finally got his hands at the Wimbledon trophy in 2013 to bring the end of a 77-year British wait.
Similarly, the 2016 season was also a memorable one for Murray. He won Wimbledon and the ATP Tour Finals to finish the year as World No 1, and between that he also bagged a second consecutive Olympic gold medal.
Murray was the second seed, behind Djokovic, and the defending champion at the 2016 Rio Games. He lost just two sets as he made his way to the final by defeating Serbia’s Viktor Troicki, Argentina’s Juan Monaco, Italy’s Fabio Fognini, USA’s Steve Johnson, and Japan’s Kei Nishikori. In the final, he was up against another Argentine – Juan Martin del Potro – who had won the bronze medal at the London Games.
Murray dropped the second set but was simply too strong for del Potro as he won 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 to claim a stunning record. The final, with a Argentine section of the crowd egging on del Potro, was a memorable match filled with some incredible rallies.
“It’s been a buildup of emotions over the last 10 days and I’m very happy I got over the line tonight. I’m so tired,” Murray had said after becoming the first tennis player in history to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals.
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