It wasn’t a Major; it wasn’t the Wimbledon Championships; and it may be a lesser note in the tennis history books. However, it was a huge day in tennis for Andy Murray at the Olympics today, as he finally came through on the big stage, defeating the great Roger Federer in straight sets (6-2, 6-1, 6-4) to win Olympic gold for Great Britain.
With this victory, Murray, the perennially overshadowed No. 4-ranked player, proves that he belongs in the conversation with the “Big Three” (Federer, Djokovic and Nadal)—hereafter, the “Big Four.”
He also avenges two very tough losses in the 2012 season—his marathon five-setter against Djokovic in the Australian Open semifinal and his loss to Roger Federer exactly four weeks ago on this same court in the Wimbledon final. In each of those matches, Murray was knocking on the door of greatness, jumping to early leads and playing aggressive, champion-like tennis.
Yet, both times, he left the door cracked open just wide enough to allow his opponent to come back.
Today, there was no question.
Murray was a man on a mission, and you could feel the tug of destiny throughout this match. The mostly British crowd was electric as Andy pulled out miraculous passing shots and lobs that just barely hugged the inside of the baseline. Even the net seemed to be on Murray’s side, granting him generous net chords in the second set that trickled over for winners.
Federer was not at his best, but the credit goes to Murray who frustrated Fed with brilliant defense and a gutsy assault on the tennis sidelines. You could sense the resignation in Federer’s body language as the match progressed, which is a rare sight.
Murray already had an impressive head-to-head record (8-8) against Federer going into this match, and he had beaten Federer in finals before—Toronto and Shanghai. Those wins, however, were in lower-pressure events, and they were best of three sets finals.
Never before had Murray taken down a great champion in an important best of five set final. Today he did just that in convincing fashion in front of his home crowd on the most famous court in tennis.
No, it wasn’t the “real” Wimbledon, but in a charged Olympic atmosphere, it felt like a Grand Slam to all who watched.
Maybe, one day, we will look back on this gold medal match as the turning point in Andy Murray’s career; the match where he broke through into the highest echelon of the game on his way to becoming a Grand Slam champion.