For many tennis fans, there may have been some mixed emotions during this afternoon’s gold medal match in the men’s singles competition.
On one side of the court stood Andy Murray, a player with all the ability to be a multi-Grand Slam winning tennis player but who has yet to win any of the biggest prizes on offer in the sport.
Facing Murray was Roger Federer, the greatest player in tennis history, and a man who has won everything in the game – apart from an Olympic gold medal in the individual event.
Federer did, in Beijing four years ago, win a gold in the double’s competition. But in what was likely to be the last Olympics that he stood a realistic chance of competing for gold, it would have been fitting for such a great champion to complete the set of every major tennis honour by claiming victory on Wimbledon’s Centre Court. In doing so, he would match Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal in winning a career “Golden Slam”, consisting of a win in each of the four Grand Slam tournaments, and also in the individual tennis event at the Olympic games.
Ignoring the prospect of Great Britain’s place in the medals table being strengthened by a win for Murray, I was desperately hoping to see him win this time around, particularly after a loss in his first taste of a final at Wimbledon only a month ago.
The opportunity to win an Olympic gold medal comes around only once every four years but relatively few competitors ever get the chance to achieve such a feat on home soil.
Murray has been consistently been amongst the top three or four players in the world for the past five years, and in the absence of a Grand Slam title to date, being crowned Olympic champion is the least he deserves to show for his career so far.
The hope now is that a first Grand Slam title will soon follow for Murray. It’s bad luck that a player of such a high level of ability happens to have two of the greatest players of all time competing during the same era in the sport, but it’s not too late for Murray to make his own mark on the history of the sport.
Such a dominant display in the final against Federer not only shows that Murray is capable of adding major titles, but having lost in each of his four previous grand slam finals, an Olympic win will give the Brit renewed confidence going into events such as next month’s US Open.
Rafa Nadal’s determination to topple Roger Federer eventually reaped its rewards and Novak Djokovic transformed his own fortunes almost overnight in going from a regular semi-finalist at major events to a consistent winner of the biggest tennis titles.
There’s no reason to suggest that Murray cannot do the same. After all, there was little between him and Djokovic two years ago, both in terms of achievements at the time, and also the potential of each player to challenge the top two.
A win at the London Olympics doesn’t do anything to change Murray’s Grand Slam record, his achievements of beating the two top players in the world en route to a triumph in a five-set final of a major event will hopefully be the catalyst towards further success for Britain’s finest player in many a generation.