Five thoughts after Andy Murray defeated Roger Federer – dropping just seven games – to win the Olympic singles gold.
So Andy Murray was the male equivalent of Serena, giving an opponent a horse-whipping in the gold medal match on Centre Court (for one extraordinarily one-sided hour in this final, Roger Federer didn’t win a game and Murray won nine). Of course, there were plenty of differences between Murray and Serena Williams, including that he didn’t shake his booty like the Californian. For Serena, winning the Olympic gold was about completing her set of titles; add the medal to her majors and she had a career golden slam. For Murray, the hope now is that this triumph – the first time since 1936 that a British man has won a singles title at the All England Club - will propel him to winning more of the sport’s biggest prizes.
So Murray beats Federer in a final at the All England Club and he isn’t the Wimbledon champion. But he is the Olympic champion, and that’s no small thing – Murray has been saying that a gold medal is a more widely recognised prize in sport than a grand slam title. Murray’s Olympic title should not be regarded as simply the next step on the way to possibly winning a first slam, as that would be to underplay this. You don’t shake your ass or well-up – there were tears in Murray’s eyes in the moments afterwards, just before he climbed up to hug his lover, friends and family – if you don’t truly care about the Olympics. This should, and will be, celebrated for its own sake. After losing the Wimbledon final to the same opponent – which was his fourth defeat in slam finals, and his third to Federer – there had been a danger that Murray could have lost heart. No one should have worried. Even before Murray beat Federer, he had been saying that he had never had as much fun at a tournament as he had done at the London Games. This was the happiest afternoon in Murray’s tennis life. The US Open will be interesting. You can now truly say that there is a top four in tennis. Each has won something of note this season, with Novak Djokovic taking the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal winning the French Open, and Federer bagging another Wimbledon title.
The greatest player of all time may well retire without an Olympic gold singles medal. Federer will be almost 35 when the Rio Games is played, and many expect that tournament to be on clay.
Federer wasn’t his usual sweet-hitting self, but that doesn’t mean that you should put an asterisk against this one. Federer made far too many mistakes. He looked fatigued, physically and emotionally, from Friday’s semi-final with Juan Martin del Potro, which had lasted for almost four and a half hours. “It was the first time in a long time that Federer had looked his age – I can’t believe that Murray won so easily,” John McEnroe said.
No one should have expected Federer to have simply continued where he had left off against Murray earlier this summer, on that day four weeks ago when he won his seventh Wimbledon title. This was not a Centre Court that Federer would have recognised from previous finals at All England Club, from those occasions when he had won seven Wimbledon titles (it was too colourful for that). And Federer would not have been familiar with the choreography of an Olympic gold medal match, as he had never played in one before. For all Federer’s experience and past glories, playing for the Olympic title was as new to him as it was to Murray.
What else had changed? The crowd. “At Wimbledon, you’re just too damned polite,” John McEnroe had said of the crowd, but he was talking about Wimbledon at Wimbledon, not the Olympics at Wimbledon. The All England Club hasn’t just been letting its hair down; it had dyed it Olympic mauve first. The 15,000 spectators inside Centre Court were more pro-Murray than the crowd had been for the Wimbledon final; they were also considerably louder. Plus there was the weather. Both finals at Wimbledon had started outside; this one finished outside too, and that was to Murray’s advantage, given how well Federer plays indoors under a closed roof. It plainly also helped Murray that it didn’t feel as though the nation’s attention was exclusively on him. Thank Jessica Ennis for this. Thank Mo Farah, Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy and Ben Ainslie too.