Great Britain’s Andy Murray became the first tennis player to win the gold medal in the singles at back to back Olympic games after coming through a marathon match 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 against Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in four hours and two minutes.
Murray claims a very lengthy opening set
Both players made tentative starts to this match of such high importance as Murray produced a couple of errors to be pegged back to 30-30 on serve. The Brit came through to get the first game on the board and began to exude pressure on the del Potro serve. The defending Olympic champion moved to 0-30 before the Argentine hit back with some winners of his own.
Murray gained a break point opportunity but del Potro snuffed out the chance with a forehand winner. The second game turned into a marathon lasting over 15 minutes as four game points came and went for the server. Del Potro saved another break point but could not deny the world number two for a third time, finishing with a volley winner after his fourth foray to the net in the match.
Any signs of del Potro failing to make a match of this were quashed as the Argentine came firing back, earning two break back points. An extended rally ended with a forehand into the net from the Argentine on the first chance, but the Brit netted a backhand to relinquish his advantage. 27 minutes gone, just three games played.
The gold medallist from London 2012 responded immediately, racing away to break del Potro to love, before backing that up with a comfortable service hold, winning eight points in a row. After the Argentine secured his first hold of serve the former US Open champion gained the confidence to break back after a double fault and a backhand unforced error from the Brit.
After losing three games in a row the Brit was under severe pressure down 0-30 and at deuce but the Brit hung tough and got himself fired up to move 5-4 in front. Back to back service holds left del Potro serving to stay in the set at 6-5. Murray struck at just the right time, nailing a forehand cross court winner before del Potro fired a backhand long to give the Brit two set points. A gutsy second serve saved the first but Murray was not to be denied on the second chance, winning the first set with a backhand winner in one hour and 15 minutes 7-5.
Del Potro comes roaring back
Murray found himself break point down immediately at the beginning of the second but prevented himself from losing the momentum with an inside in forehand winner. Another extended rally resulted in the Argentine overpowering the world number two to bring up a second break point, but once again Murray was resolute in defence, finishing the point with a drop shot winner which was applauded by the former world number four. A backhand winner down the line made it third time the charm for del Potro, securing the earliest of breaks in set number two.
Three break back points came and went for the Brit in the following game as both players continued to hold serve before Murray was serving to stay in the set at 3-5. Del Potro fired his way to a set point before quick reactions from the Olympic champion saw him guide a volley back past his opponent to keep his hopes of the set alive. The Argentine brought up two set points on his own serve, but once more the world number two hung tough and pushed the game to deuce. The man who knocked out Novak Djokovic in round one looked very determined to secure the set, ripping a ferocious forehand down the line winner to wrap up the set 6-4.
The Brit at his best in the third set
Both players began the third set looking strong on serve, with no cracks being shown by either player until the sixth game. Murray went through the gears to move into a 0-30 advantage before the Argentine struck back to 30-30. A cross court passing shot winner brought up a break point, but del Potro hit a crushing forehand which the Brit could not get back into play. Murray worked his way to a second chance and this time the Argentine misfired to move the Olympic champion 4-2 in front.
A clutch service hold moved the Brit one game away from this pivotal third set and Murray looked to be a man on a mission, drawing errors from his opponent to move to 0-40, three set points. Del Potro saved the first but made another error to wrap up the set for the world number two 6-2 after 36 minutes.
The Argentine does not go away
Del Potro’s spirits were lifted right at the beginning of the set as they were in the second after Murray played a howler of a game, making four erratic errors to drop serve. The world number two created a couple of opportunities to break straight back and converted on his second chance with a superb drop shot winner. Unbelievably two double faults resulted in the Brit dropping serve once again as the Argentine took a 2-1 lead.
Del Potro began to look more and more fatigued in the fourth game as Murray moved to 0-40, with both players continuing to struggle on serve. The Brit missed a forehand wide on his first chance but forced the Argentinean to only find the net to lose the break advantage, before progressing to hold serve for the first time in the fourth set.
In the next 10 minutes the Argentine completely turned it around and looked to be fit and firing once more, holding with ease. This renewed confidence and attitude carried him into the next game as Murray faltered, allowing the Argentine to break for the third time in this set. The world number two looked to accomplish what he had done the first two times he got broken by breaking straight back and this looked possible at 0-30. However, three missed service returns and a huge del Potro forehand moved him one game away from the fourth set.
The Brit strikes back to claim gold
With del Potro serving for the set in the ninth game Murray laid it all out on the line. The Brit worked so hard to earn two break back points but rather tamely lost them both before the rally of the match ensued to bring up a third chance. The Argentine saved himself with a huge serve, but fourth time was the charm for Murray as he came back from the brink to move to 5-5.
Murray’s work on serve was far from over as the Brit faced two more break points. Del Potro’s slice found the net on the first before the world number two found back to back aces to help him secure a crucial hold of serve to lead 6-5. The man from Dunblane gave it his all in the final game, he may have missed the backhand return on his first match point but the Brit could not be denied at the second time of asking, becoming the 2016 Olympic Champion in four hours and two minutes.