Chants of "Murr-ay! Murr-ay!" and "Rog-er! Rog-er!" filled centre court at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on Friday. The crowd was rocking on the warm summer evening for the men's singles semifinals as the normally reserved British crowd went well beyond their typical etiquette to give the matches a stage normally reserved for a Premier League game.
|Nobody has more pressure on them than Andy Murray does on Sunday in the gold medal match. (U.S. Presswire)|
The Olympic tennis tournament may be taking place at Wimbledon but it's fairly clear that it's not the Wimbledon.
"The atmosphere is unbelievable on the court," Andy Murray said on NBC. "It's a very different atmosphere than Wimbledon, both are great but this is more like a concert rather than a tennis match."
Perhaps, fittingly, the tournament is one big Queen concert with 'Under Pressure' playing on a loop. The Union Jack will be out in full force on Sunday for the men's singles gold medal match, with Murray once again hoisting the hopes of the host country on his back. Just a month ago on Centre Court Murray and Roger Federer played for a grand slam title -- now they meet again with not just personal gain on the line but national pride.
"There's going to be pressure on both of us," said Murray. "He's never won a gold in singles before and I know how much that means to him. So there will be pressure on him as well and maybe that's something that he hasn't experienced before, which is rare for him because he's done so much in tennis.
"We played a great match at Wimbledon but I want to beat him this time and that's the plan."
A gold medal in singles is the one elusive thing for Federer in a career that holds seemingly ever tennis title and record. He improved to 12-0 this summer on the grounds at the All England Club with his marathon win over Juan Martin del Potro, a mark that includes a record-tying seventh Wimbledon title.
"I definitely got a sense that it was something special," Federer said of his four hour, 26 minute semifinal. "The deeper we went into the match, the more I thought, 'Wow, this is so cool to be part of a match like this.'"
"It was probably the most emotional match I played," Murray said of his match. "The Wimbledon final was up there, obviously. The support, the atmosphere tonight, the sort of ups and downs in the match, the amount of chance I had to save in the second set made it very tough. I feel grand, I'm so glad to be in the final."
The pair is an even 8-8 against each other and whoever captures the ninth win will experience a win unlike any other in their careers. The loss, while it will result in a silver medal, will be bathed in disappointment.
|There's still plenty of work left for Roger Federer as he plays for his first singles gold medal. (U.S. Presswire)|
For Federer, perhaps the greatest tennis player in history, it means a blemish will forever be on his resume as he competes in what will likely be his last Olympics.
Murray, a 25-year-old Scot, carries the hopes of an entire nation on his shoulders and it's fair to say, right now, he has more pressure on him than any other athlete at these games. A month ago he became the first homegrown finalist at Wimbledon since 1938. Now he's the man as his nation hosts the world at the Olympics. He may have other chances to win a gold medal down the road, unlike Federer, but this is a once in a lifetime shot to win one in front of the home crowd.
The only thing in his way is the man who stopped in a final recently.
These games are about sport, about redemption, about overcoming obstacles. From a storyline standpoint it sets up perfectly for Murray to swoop in and knock off Federer. In reality, it will be difficult at best -- as the grit and determination the No. 1 player in the world showed in his record long match.
The Olympics happen every four years and they wind up in London only once in a blue moon, a confluence of factors that ramp up expectations for the two men in the final at Wimbledon. Pressure, thy name is once again Andy Murray. Come Sunday, we'll find out if he's under it or out on top.