Mint Murray sinks Fed for gold
Great Britain's Andy Murray beat Roger Federer in straight sets to clinch Olympic gold in the men's tennis final at Wimbledon on Sunday.
There were tears of joy on Centre Court for Murray as he avenged his Wimbledon final defeat by Federer in the finest possible way.
It was four weeks to the day since that heartbreaking loss had left him sobbing with despair but things could not have been more different today.
Murray - who described his victory as "the biggest win of my life" - has relished the whole Olympic experience and he did not just beat Federer, he handed him his heaviest ever defeat at Wimbledon, sealing a remarkable 6-2 6-1 6-4 victory with an ace.
Federer certainly went into the match as the favourite on a stage he has made his own but he had to settle for silver, ending his hopes of matching Serena Williams yesterday and completing the 'golden slam' of all four grand slams and the Olympic title.
Murray had come out firing four weeks ago, breaking Federer in the first game, but today it was the Scot who found himself under pressure as he gave away two break points.
He saved them both, though, and that was to prove vital as he went on to win the first set.
Federer was making a lot of unforced errors while Murray gradually raised his level and, after missing a chance to break in the fourth game, moved ahead in the sixth when the world number one could not handle a fizzing backhand.
Centre Court was rocking, and the noise level increased again when Murray broke to take the set, nailing a backhand pass just inside the line.
Murray had talked in the build-up about the rarity of Federer treading new ground and how that levelled the playing field, and he was certainly not showing the same form he did at Wimbledon.
There was a lot on the line for the Swiss player, who is unlikely to have another chance to win a singles gold medal, the only major honour missing from his trophy cabinet.
Tension had crackled around Centre Court in the Wimbledon final but today it seemed to have homed in on Federer's racquet.
Even the net was on Murray's side as two bits of luck helped him break for the third time in a row to lead 2-0 in the second set.
The key game of the match followed as Federer threw everything at Murray in an effort to get back on terms, forcing six break points, but every time he was repelled.
The crowd sensed it was vital he held on, and remarkably he won an eighth straight game when Federer double-faulted, and then a ninth before the Wimbledon champion finally stopped the rot.
There was an air of disbelief on Centre Court, could this really be happening? Federer had a chance to pull one break back but again Murray held firm to move into a two-set lead.
Federer had played for almost four and a half hours on Friday in beating Juan Martin Del Potro in a titanic semi-final and his movement was certainly not up to his usual standard.
But that was to take nothing away from Murray, who was pinning the great man back with the ferocity of his groundstrokes, particularly his cross-court backhand.
A two-set lead was still far from victory of course, with Federer having come back from two sets to love down to win on many occasions, including against Julien Benneteau at Wimbledon.
Often Murray has a dip at such moments but not today, he simply maintained the same excellent level and broke again with another superb backhand.
Federer prevented the Scot moving 5-2 ahead and then forced him to serve it out. The nerves must have been coursing through Murray's body but he did not show it, two big serves bringing up match point before the final coup de grace.
The world number four celebrated the finest win of his life by climbing up to the players' box to celebrate with friends and family, and it could yet be double gold with the mixed doubles final still to come.
Murray hailed the biggest win of his career.
"It's number one for me," he told BBC1. "The biggest win of my life. This week's been incredible so far.
"I've had a lot of fun, the support's been amazing. One more match to go, but it's been unbelievable."
Murray said he was inspired both by the performances of his Great Britain team-mates and the crowd, who were unusually boisterous for SW19.
"They're unbelievable," he said. "It's not just here but all of the events I've watched. I watched the athletics last night it was amazing.
"The way Mo Farah won... I do 400m repetitions in my training and when I'm completely fresh I can run it in 57 seconds and his last lap after 9,600m was 53 seconds. It's just unbelievable fitness.
"It gave me a boost coming into today. The momentum the team's had the last couple of days has been so good."
Murray admitted the achievement had surprised even him.
"I didn't expect that at the start of the week," he said. "I had a chance of going deep into the tournament [but] I was a little bit tired after Wimbledon, and playing the mixed as well.
"But I felt so fresh. On the court today I didn't really feel nervous at all apart from at the beginning of the match."
Murray felt his victory was the perfect way to recover from his Wimbledon disappointment.
"It's worth it," he said. "I've had a lot of tough losses in my career. This is the best way to come back. I'll never forget it."
Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro won the bronze medal after upsetting second seed Novak Djokovic 7-5 6-4 on Wimbledon's Court One.
Del Potro lost a marathon semi-final encounter to Federer on Friday and left the court in tears, but he roused himself physically and mentally to earn his place on the podium.
Djokovic, beaten by Murray in the last four, was the bronze medallist in Beijing four years ago but he ceded first blood when his serve was broken in the 11th game.
He had two chances to break back and force a tie-break but Del Potro held on, and the Argentinian broke again to lead 2-1 in the second set.
Djokovic tried to respond but there was no way back and for the Serb there was only the agony of finishing fourth.