Murray Triumphant Again
ANDY Murray has done what no other male tennis player on the planet has ever achieved.
He has won a second gold medal in the menÈs singles at the Olympic Games.
The British No.1 re-wrote history as he defeated Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro 7-5 4-6 6-2 7-5 in an emotional rollercoaster of a final over 4hr.2min in Rio.
Tears filled his eyes as he weakly raised his arms wide after an exhausting marathon against a player who last year considered quitting the sport due to injury.
The combatants hugged at the net. The crying gladiators. You can fight tooth and nail with someone on the sports field and still share a fond intimacy bonded by common experience the moment the contest is over.
If you believe the current crop of tennis stars are the best of all time. He is, in this reporterÈs opinion, BritainÈs greatest living sportsman.
As he stood on the podium with the gold hung around his neck like it did in London four years ago – the tears ducts looked to be filling in MurrayÈs eyes once more.
Murray has won a second Wimbledon and reached the Australian and French Open finals this year after finishing 2015 by leading Team GB to the Davis Cup for the first time in 79 years.
And now with more Games glory you just wonder how much more he can achieve. Where he will stand in the pantheon of British sporting history when we look back?
He is, in this reporterÈs opinion, BritainÈs greatest living sportsman.
And if you believe the current crop of tennis stars are the best of all time, then he has to be among his sportÈs greatest ever.
His efforts against del Potro alone clearly underline all this. He should have every appropriate accolade thrown at him, certainly a knighthood.
We are lucky, very lucky to have him and he should be shown we recognise the fact.
Murray began on the front foot against del Potro. He struck the ball well and a mixed it up by rushing the net one second and slicing a backhand to his 6ft.6in opponentÈs toes from the back of the court the next.
And he broke the Argentine for a 2-0 lead when he smashed an unstoppable volley beyond the 2009 US Open champion.
But del Potro broke back as MurrayÈs first serve let him down.
Even so, the 29-year-old Scot broke again and held for a 4-1 lead.
Del Potro, who considered retirement after three operations on his wrists, came roaring back to level the set as MurrayÈs first serve faltered.
But the world No.2 found a way to keep his nose in front and broke del Potro for the set with a sublime backhand down the line.
Del Potro, who only returned to the circuit earlier this year, made nonsense of his world ranking of 141, as he got his eye in in the second set. He rarely missed a return, with his bludgeoning forehand the pick of his shots. It might have been power over finesse but it drove Murray back.
And the Scot found himself 2-0 down when his opponent saved break points to hold after breaking the Brit.
Murray steadied his ship and held on to his serve but del Potro was not in the mood to let him back into the set and served out to level.
The match already two hours long was developing into a marathon, which, on the face of it, favoured Murray, given his fitness regime and the amount of tennis del Potro has missed over recent years.
The giant South American looked increasingly weary. Sweating, he cast his big cow eyes upwards and leant on his racket for support after one exhausting rally.
And it appeared that Murray could sense his chance.
He broke del Potro for a second time to take a two sets to one lead.
But a series of unforced errors presented del Potro with a break in the first game of the fourth.
Yet MurrayÈs hand skills were evident with a subtle backhand cross court to immediately break back.
Del PotroÈs serve had been broken three times in a row. Could Murray make it count?
The Argentine broke back.
Murray, though, again, broke del Potro, completing it with a yet another backhand at the ArgentineÈs feet.
Could he become the first to hold his serve in the set?
The answer was a resounding yes with a solid game and del Potro looked increasingly tired and troubled enough physically to call a physio for treatment.
It seemed as if the Argentine had punched himself out. Had Murray, a big boxing fan, finally roped a dopeÈ to coin Muhammad AliÈs infamous description of how he defeated George Foreman in one of his sportÈs most famous fights?
No such luck for Murray with a revived del Potro holding for 3-3 and then breaking the ScotÈs serve as the Brit collided with a line judge trying to reach a smash from the Argentine.
And del Potro held to force Murray to serve to stay in the set.
The world No.2 succeeded before breaking Del Potro for 5-5
He edged in front after saving a series of break points. It put him a game away from victory after 4hr.2min.
And he sealed it on his second match point in the next game as del Potro dumped a backhand into the net.
In the Bronze medal match, Kei Nishikori defeated Rafa Nadal 6-2 6-7(1) 6-3.