It’s déjà vu all over again Sunday at London 2012 Olympics Wimbledon. Roger Federer and Andy Murray clashed a month ago on the Wimbledon grass, and tomorrow they’ll perform Act II this time with the gold medal on the line in a best-of-5 final.
As I’ve said before, I’m not the biggest supporter of tennis in the Olympics – afterall, there are some 15 events on the men’s tour that offer more points than the Olympics – but after watching a week of drama unfold with some unbelievable matches, I’m slowly coming around. And what a way to finish the tennis event with Federer v. Murray and just for kicks Novak Djokovic against Juan Martin Del Potro. Plus there’s plenty of doubles matches on if that’s your taste on a Sunday morning.
So, on to the main matchup.
Roger Federer v. Andy Murray
Federer’s win at Wimbledon knotted their head-to-head series at 8-8 and having won the last three over Murray there’s little dispute the momentum is firmly on the Swiss’s side. I know Murray has Ivan Lendl in his corner and he’s more offensive than ever (in a good way!), more mature, more prone to tears like Roger and he just beat Djokovic, but really, Wimbledon is Roger’s second home. It is. That simple.
Both players enter the final coming off emotional wins. Federer needed nearly 4-and-a-half hours to put away a resilient Juan Martin Del Potro 19-17 to reach his first gold medal stage match. Murray ousted his nemesis Novak Djokovic 7-5, 7-5 and the celebration that followed made it seem like he had won the tournament. Of course he hadn’t.
Despite Federer’s long match, he should be well and rested 48 hours later. And the back issue he had a month hasn’t resurfaced. On the other hand I have to wonder about Murray. After expending so much on Friday, then playing and winning two matches in mixed doubles today, I do wonder how much emotional energy he has in reserve.
Murray has now been under the public microscope for over a month since the just before Wimbledon and it has to take some sort of toll. It must, right?
But at least the enormity of the Olympics does make tennis somewhat of a sideshow, and I don’t think the pressure on Murray tomorrow will be as great as it was during Wimbledon when the entire country hung on every shot. That won’t be the case Sunday. At least I don’t think it will with Britain’s strong performance at the games Saturday. So that should benefit Andy.
And really, the urgency is on Federer’s side. At 31 he’s not going to get this chance for the gold/golden Slam again, not on the clay in Rio when he’s 35. This is it and he knows it. He’s been gunning for this day since 2000 and as we saw when he tried to serve it out and failed at 10-9 against Del Potro Friday, this type of pressure can make even the greatest crack. Wimbledon will come again next year, but not the Olympics. We saw that rare blink from Federer on Friday, perhaps there’s more to come?
That said, the key to the match for me is the best-of-five format. And that helps Federer immeasurably. At Wimbledon, Murray came out hot, Federer waited for him to cool and then pounced. In a three-set format, Murray could catch a run for a set and a half and that’d would be enough. In best-of-five he won’t have that luxury. He’ll have to maintain a high level and win three sets against the great Federer on his favorite grass surface, and I just don’t think he can mentally do it. Plus, he hasn’t. In just about every “world stage” match in his career he’s come up short. Beating Federer in Toronto or Djokovic in Dubai is one thing, but doing at a Slam or in best-of-5 in your home country is entirely another. And until he does that I simply have to continue to pick against him.
Honestly, at this point I hope he wins one because the variety and talent are there and his game is slowly becoming more offensive. And that’s what he needs to do. But I’ll say he’ll keep it closer than even Wimbledon before reverting to his old defensive ways, and then Federer gets him, again.
The pick: Federer in five
And a big congrats to Serena Williams who picked up her third gold medal and Golden Slam after thrashing Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-1. Is there any doubt who the best on grass is in the women’s game? Nope. Serena and Venus will likely collect their fourth golds tomorrow in the doubles final.
NBC will have the men’s final live at 9am ET. You check our Olympic tennis TV schedule for showtimes of the other matches including the Williams sisters doubles.
OLYMPICS TENNIS SUNDAY SCHEDULE
Centre Court – starting at 12:00
WD F (4) HLAVACKOVA / HRADECKA (CZE) vs WILLIAMS / WILLIAMS (USA)
not before 14:00
MS F (1) FEDERER Roger (SUI) vs (3) MURRAY Andy (GBR)
XD F (ITF) ROBSON / MURRAY (GBR) (1) AZARENKA / MIRNYI (BLR)
Court No. 1 – starting at 12:00
MS BM (8) DEL POTRO Juan Martin (ARG) vs (2) DJOKOVIC Novak (SRB)
WD BM (1) HUBER / RAYMOND (USA) vs (3) KIRILENKO / PETROVA (RUS)
XD BM (3) RAYMOND/ BRYAN (USA)vs LISICKI / KAS (GER)
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