Saturday, August 4, 2012

Olympic Tennis Men's Gold Medal Match preview

Roger Federer (1) vs. Andy Murray (3)
Tennis writers all over the world were writing similar previews barely a month ago when Roger Federer and Andy Murray contested the Wimbledon final. As soon as Federer won that brilliant final, tennis fans and experts were hoping for a possible repeat of the final at the Olympics, and those dreams have now borne out into reality. Roger Federer of Switzerland will play Andy Murray of Great Britain for single's Olympic gold on Centre Court at Wimbledon.

In a year where Murray has played his fair share of brilliant matches, his semi-final victory against Novak Djokovic was tennis of the highest calibre. In a match featuring jaw-dropping rallies and sublime winners, Murray didn't lose his serve at all and more impressively broke Djokovic at a decisive stage to win both sets, finally displaying the mental strength to win key points against a higher ranked opponent.

Roger Federer's semi-final will live long in the memory. Not many expected Juan Martin Del Potro to be a stern test for the king of grass. However, not only did Del Potro turn out to be an excellent competitor, for most of the match he actually managed to outplay Federer, and there were several moments when he looked the most likely victor. The one big asset that helped Federer to come through in an epic 4 and a half hour match was Federer's indomitable serve, which bailed him out of many sticky situations.

Both players come in to the final with questions about physical preparation. Federer was obviously exerted more on Friday after his marathon match, and having the day off on Saturday will aid his recovery. While Murray's semi was significantly shorter, he did ended up playing two extremely tense mixed doubles matches with Laura Robson on Saturday, so he might not necessarily be any fresher.

The fact that the Olympics final alone is a best of 5 set affair also adds an extra layer of intrigue to the match. If the first half of the match is as even as their final at Wimbledon, then Federer's serve could turn out to be a considerable advantage when fatigue steps in during a possible fourth or fifth set.

For Murray, it once again comes down to a question of belief. If he can maintain his intensity and more importantly not waste any break point opportunities, Murray certainly can come out on top. The biggest challenge Murray faces though might be the simple fact that he has doesn't have the consistent heavy hitting ability that can unsettle Federer. Murray's biggest strength is his finesse and tactical variety. Unfortunately their previous matches show that in a best of 5 set situation, Federer inevitably will come out on top in a battle of finesse and tactics, despite Murray's best efforts.

There is nothing to differentiate the two in the desire and determination stakes. This title means a lot to both players, as their outpouring of emotion after the semi-finals clearly demonstrated. Federer is hoping to win his first and possibly only Olympics single's gold medal to complete a set of honours that are unparalleled in the men's game. Murray on the other hand will never have another opportunity to win singles gold in front of a home crowd. He is bound to pumped up by the patriotic fervour that is so rampant in the wake of all the Olympic success Great Britain and Northern Ireland are currently attaining.

Federer might have the omens on his side. After all he did beat Murray at the same venue only 26 days ago, and just like at Wimbledon, Serena Williams won the Women's tournament to complete her set of singles honours. Murray also has the added caveat of an extra opportunity to get gold immediately after in the mixed doubles final.

It truly is a dream final, as Wimbledon's two most loved men's tennis players go against each other. Irrespective of the result, whether it is a match decided by the intangibles of courage and mental strength or the technicality of big serves and smart angles, all tennis fans can hope to see a gold medal match that should meet the standards set during the Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray.