Murray should believe in himself now
It wasn't a Grand Slam, but Murray won the biggest title of his career by crushing Federer 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in less than two hours to deprive Federer of the career Golden Slam. In the aftermath of Great Britain's three gold medals in track and field Saturday, the good results kept coming for the U.K. at London 2012. Here are five takeaways from Sunday, the final day of the tennis event, in which the Williams sisters snared another gold in doubles:
1. Murray's key game
Federer took control of the Wimbledon final in the third set, when he broke Murray in a 20-minute game. On Sunday, a game that lasted nearly that long on Murray's serve again proved to be pivotal.[+] EnlargeChristopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsHow much will this gold-medal match help Andy Murray as he tries to win the elusive Slam?
This time the Scot prevailed. It came with Murray leading 2-0 in the second. Federer missed six break points -- he went 0-for-9 in the match -- and watched helplessly as Murray unleashed a stunning, down-the-line backhand pass on the penultimate point of the game. Two gutsy, heavy second serves down the middle (the kind that looked like they were going wide the whole way) also helped Murray.
When Murray won the game, the match was realistically over.
2. Federer off his game
We have to wonder: Was Federer's back, or any other part of his body, hurting?
At times it appeared he was walking gingerly between points. How else to explain such a ragged display? He made 31 unforced errors -- on grass, in three sets.
In that third game of the second set, Federer began moving a little better. His footwork was coming back. But before -- and after -- it wasn't the usual Federer. The chilly weather in the past week, the stopping and starting of play and his doubles matches all might have been factors (more so than the four-hour semifinal battle against Juan Martin del Potro). At least twice this week, we spotted what appeared to be Federer subtly trying to loosen up the back.
Stats don't tell the entire story, but glance at Murray's numbers in the first two sets -- 20 winners and 15 unforced errors. Not exactly lights-out stuff.
Murray served at 51 percent in the match, and not all of his second serves were as big as the ones he hit in the crucial game of the second set. Federer was doing a whole lot of slicing on backhand returns.
3. Great for Murray
Winning Sunday will be a moment that gives Murray more belief than ever before that he can end his Grand Slam drought.
Whether it was Ivan Lendl's influence or not, Murray's forehand looks a lot better. (He was making progress in that area prior to Lendl.) Years ago, Murray couldn't dictate rallies hitting cross-court forehands. It's beginning to happen now. The down-the-line forehand, though, remains a work in progress.
The shame for Murray is that he has only one more Grand Slam tournament this season. If he doesn't win the U.S. Open, a large slice of the momentum he'll have gathered from winning the Olympics will evaporate. Also worth pointing out is that Novak Djokovic was far from his best in the semifinals.
All that said, Murray deserves this occasion. Don't let his dour moments on the court fool you. He's a class act.
4. Consolation for del Potro
Del Potro wept when he lost to Federer 19-17 in the third set on Friday. He wept again in the bronze-medal match against Djokovic.
Only this time they were tears of joy as a 7-5, 6-4 winner. His box was ecstatic, too.
Like Murray, del Potro will gain significant momentum from the win, likely his most important since coming back from wrist surgery. Not including retirements, del Potro hadn't been able to overcome Federer, Djokovic, Murray or Rafael Nadal since 2009.
That Djokovic was off form this tournament won't diminish the importance. Nadal was poor against del Potro in Miami in 2009 and lost, yet it was the turning point for the Argentine's career. Months later, he won in New York.
5. Double delight
They also became the first tennis players to each win four career gold medals. Only one player, Great Britain's Kathleen McKane, won more than four tennis medals, bagging five (one gold, two silver and two bronze) overall in 1920 and 1924. The sisters' record together in doubles at the All England Club improved to 43-2.
Serena didn't lose a set in singles or doubles.
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