Andy Murray Strikes A Second Olympic Singles Gold
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Andy Murray struck gold for his second straight Olympics, as he took home the singles gold medal with a thrilling 7-5 4-6 6-2 7-5 victory, where he came from behind to prevent a fifth set against the fan favorite Juan Martin Del Potro. Del Potro shocked to take home the silver medal, while Rafael Nadal fought hard, but was outmatched by Kei Nishikori in the bronze medal match 6-2 6-7 6-3.
Murray, one of the tournament favorites, had his chances boosted early on when Del Potro stunned a listless world #1 Novak Djokovic in a pair of tiebreaks. Del Potro came to life this week, as he was healthy, powering through the ball, playing clutch tennis, and riding on the spirit of the South American crowd to boost his game.
In the final both players were broken quite a few times, Murray six times, and Del Potro nine. Murray got off to a hot start, he was the fresher player, and went up breaks twice. Del Potro would fight back in the first set though, but eventually he succumbed to the strong return game of Murray to concede it. The second set was the most straightforward of the match, as Murray was broken early, and Del Potro served his way into a tied match. In the third set, Murray buckled down, breaking Del Potro twice to setup what would be the final set of the match, the most entertaining of all.
The fourth set featured five early breaks, including Del Potro having a chance to serve for a fifth set a 5-4. Murray fought back to break, and eventually Del Potro caved, broken when serving for a fourth set tiebreak. Despite the loss, it was an amazing effort from Del Potro after a grueling semifinal, and Murray was rewarded in his own right with a meaningful gold medal.
Murray slid past Viktor Troicki and Juan Monaco in his early matches, then he needed three sets against Fabio Fognini and Steve Johnson. The American Johnson badly wanted an Olympic medal, and was initially denied the chance by losing a third set tiebreak to the world #2. Murray then dominated Nishikori in the semifinal, as the Japanese #1 played poorly.
Del Potro followed up his big win over Djokovic with hard fought victories over Joao Sousa, Taro Daniel, Roberto Bautista Agut, and Rafael Nadal. Nadal came into Rio with a wrist injury, but shockingly reached the bronze medal match in a remarkable feat. Del Potro didn’t have an easy match all week, and after winning a third set tiebreak thriller over Rafa, he didn’t have much left in the tank for the final.
Nadal beat Federico Delbonis, Andreas Seppi, and Gilles Simon in straights, then he ended home hopes with a three set win over Thomaz Bellucci. In the bronze medal match, Nishikori defeated him despite a strong effort, like Del Potro he simply didn’t have enough energy for his final match. Nishikori beat Albert Ramos, John Millman, Andrej Martin, and Gael Monfils to reach the bronze medal match. Monfils fell short against Kei in a third set tiebreak, as Olympic mens singles featured some close and hard fought matches this week. Despite the weakened field, those who played, played with great passion. Nishikori had to stop Nadal’s momentum to win their third set.
The men’s doubles gold was won by long time friends Marc Lopez and Nadal, as Rafa got a much deserved gold medal for Spain. They defeated Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau, while the American pairing of Johnson and Jack Sock beat Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil for Bronze. It’s a big result for Johnson who came back after a tough loss in singles to get a medal.
Sock teamed up with Bethanie Mattek-Sands to defeat fellow Americans Rajeev Ram and Venus Williams to take home the mixed doubles gold medal. Hradecka and Stepanek beat Mirza and Bopanna for the bronze.