DON’T tell Andy Murray that tennis players don’t belong at the Olympics. Don’t tell him that it doesn’t mean as much as the Grand Slams, that the title should be no more than an interesting footnote on a career rather than genuine achievement.
Murray booked his place in the Olympic final – and set up a revenge of his Wimbledon defeat against Roger Federer – with a straight sets 7-5, 7-5 win over Novak Djokovic in a match that lasted bang on two hours.
He has enjoyed many great moments on Wimbledon’s Centre Court but this was surely the greatest yet.
This was the atmosphere of a match during the Championships turned up in volume and tension. They chanted, they clapped, they groaned, they roared and Murray duly responded with some of the finest tennis of his career. Djokovic looked crushed. He has said his Olympic bronze from Beijing 2008 is one of his most prized possessions, while Murray was even more pumped up that normal.
“That atmosphere was unbelievable, I’ve not played in anything close to that before,” he said. “This was the most emotional I’ve been after a match, I was so happy to win. You don’t see me smiling that much normally. I haven’t stopped smiling since I came off the court.
“If you asked me before the tournament, I would have said the a Grand Slam is the most important thing to do in your tennis career but within sport, a gold medal is the pinnacle. Everyone understands what a gold medal is. After what I experienced here winning gold would be right up there with anything else that I could achieve in tennis. Obviously I’ve never won a Slam before but I’ve never won a gold either.
“But winning a silver medal at least feels really good. And losing in the final of a Grand Slam felt terrible.”
Djokovic insisted he would lift himself for the bronze-medal match and believed home advantage was crucial for Murray’s success.
“He played better in the important moments and he was the better player,” he said. “I experienced many great atmospheres but this was one of the best.
“That’s why team competitions, competitions where you represent your country, not yourself, are very exciting for us players to be part of.
“I expected the crowd to be for Andy and they gave him plenty of support and positive energy. He managed to use that in his favour to win the match.”
But elation for Murray was soon tempered by the thought of who lies in wait, in a match that will be decided over the best of five sets.
However, the world No. 1 was pushed the distance in his semi-final by Juan Martin Del Potro in a match that lasted four hours and 26 minutes, the longest three-set singles match in the Open era.
But the Olympics singles title – he won doubles gold with Stanislas Wawrinka at Beijing 2008 – is the only major title missing from his collection and winning at Wimbledon is a key ambition that will ease the pain of aching limbs.
“I don’t think going into matches trying to get revenge for something that’s happened in the past really helps,” added Murray.
“He’s not played for the gold medal in singles before, and most times when I played him, he’s experienced the situations way, way more times than me.”
• Bank of Scotland, proud supporter of Team GB and proud partner of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Get closer to the Games at bankofscotland.co.uk/London2012