Tennis has been a part of the Olympics since 1896, although there was a period from 1928-1984 when it wasn’t a part of the Olympic program. However, it has been a regular since 1988. Over the years, there have been many great players who have been on the podium and some of these players have won more than one medal.
One record which is still yet to be accomplished by any player is two successive gold medals at the singles tournament.
At the London Olympics in 2012, Andy Murray became the first British player in the Open Era to win a singles medal at the Olympics when he beat Roger Federer in the final only a few weeks after losing to him in the Wimbledon final to clinch the gold medal. Four years have passed since then and Murray has matured as a player, improvised a lot on his game and has won three Grand slams since then.
This year has probably been Murray’s best yet. The scot is in the form of his life, having won three titles so far. Murray began the year with a runner-up finish at the Australian Open where he lost to Novak Djokovic in the title clash.
After poor performances at Indian Wells and Miami, Murray reached the semifinals of the Monte Carlo Masters before losing to Rafael Nadal. He lost to Djokovic at the final of the Madrid Open before turning the tables at their meeting in the final of the Italian Open. He then reached his maiden French Open final by beating reigning champion Stan Wawrinka in the semis. However, he lost to Djokovic in the final despite taking the first set.
He continued his good form by winning a fifth title Queen’s Club Championships before lifting a second Wimbledon title, beating Canadian Milos Raonic on both occasions. Having won his previous two tournaments, Murray will be a hot favorite to bag the gold medal at Rio which will also make him the first player to have won two consecutive Olympic singles gold medals.
However, the path will not be smooth for Murray as there are a number of players who are bound to give him a run for his money at Rio.
The Big Four cloud
Murray might be ranked No. 2 in the world but when it comes to his head-to-head record against other members of the Big Four, the Scot is well behind Nadal, Djokovic and Federer with an overall record of 28-55 against them and a record of 8-26 since the London Olympics.
The tournament will be held on hard court where Murray’s performances have been brilliant with an overall win percentage of 78% but has an overall record of 22-38 against the Big Four and a record of 4-19 against them since the London Olympics.
The likes of Wawrinka, Nishikori and Tsonga are expected to put up a tough fight through their offensive game and resilience but given his present form, Murray should have an easy journey to the semis where he is bound to face one of the Big Four members.
Federer and Nadal haven’t had a very good run of form this year and have been far from being the dangerous opponents they were back during the late 2000s as both of them have been dealing with injuries lately which gives Murray a possible edge over them.
However, the same can’t be said about the current World No.1 Novak Djokovic who has been Murray’s most troublesome opponent, and has been the biggest reason why Murray has never been able to win an Australian Open.
The Serb has won 16 of their last 20 meetings and has been ruthless in hard courts. His aggressive baseline play combined with his precise backhand has placed him among the all-time greats and has frequently helped him get the better of opponents.
There have however been a number of times when Murray has been more than a match for the Serb and given him a real run for his money. The Scot’s incredible work rate has seldom given him the advantage in the long run and this will be something he will be relying on to beat Djokovic as a Murray-Djokovic final will be most people’s first expection of the gold medal clash.
Murray has had a terrific year so far and will be looking to sweeten it with a second Olympic gold. Djokovic has been phenomenal and the third-round exit at Wimbledon is merely a setback from which he would easily bounce back but Murray will surely be an opponent to be wary of as 7 of his 10 wins against Djokovic have come at hard courts and the turf on Rio is similar to the one where he beat the Serb to win his first Grand Slam title in 2012.
With a brilliant run of form prior to the Olympics, will Murray be the first player to win two consecutive singles gold medals? Given his present form, the odds are pretty high.