From Jimmy Connors‘ autobiography, the Outsider:

Some of the shots that Borg and I played that day – he with his little wooden racquet and me with my T2000 – were just flat-out crazy. The crowd responded with the kind of passion that showed their appreciation for fierce competitors and great tennis.

The first set went according to plan. I came into net when I could, following up my punishing groundstrokes by taking the ball out of the air whenever possible, not letting Borg settle into a rythm. In the second set, I was hitting the ball so flat to the corners that I missed a few shots, both out wide and into the net, giving Borg a way back into the match, but I refused to let it put me off my game. I was playing to win, continuing to go for my shots.

Sitting back and letting Borg dictate the play – playing it safe like a lot of guys and hoping for the best – wasn’t an option for me. Those missed shots just made me press even harder. Keep playing your game, Jimmy. That’s what you do best. If you lose, OK, you lose, but it happens on your terms.

Going into the third set, I stuck to my game. I kept hitting flat, deep balls to the baseline, not letting Borg build on the momentum of winning the second set. It worked. The match had sapped our energy, and winning the tiebreaker in the third set proved to be the turning point. Fighting to the end is what tennis is all about for me, and with Borg you could take nothing for granted. But I got on top early in the fourth, won the title on my third match point, and added another Grand Slam to my collection.

In December 1975, I was supposedly finished – just a chubby, washed-up, fading superstar with no manager, no coach and no fiancée. By September 1976, I had my fourth Grand Slam, Mom looking after my business, Pancho in the stands, and Miss World to wake up to. Washed-up ain’t so bad.

Olympic gold medallist Andy Murray

From Andy Murray’s autobiography, Seventy-Seven

The atmosphere on finals day was nerve-tingling once again. So many were decked out in Union Jack colours, every spectator seemed to have a flag. I would imagine for Roger, the fact that the fans wee so obviously in my corner must have been a shock for him. He’s been on that court so many times and the British have great affection for him. The Wimbledon final was fairly split, but in the Olympics the support for me was amazing. When the crowd is behind you, it does make a huge difference – it makes you perform better, the opponent can feel intimidated, and when things are going well it is easier to carry that momentum through a match. Against Roger, this time, I didn’t let up at all.

The middle part of the match was, without doubt, the best I’d played in my career to that point. I’m not saying Roger played his best match, but the support of the crowd and the momentum from everyone else in every other sport doing so well seemed to carry me along. I just felt right the whole match.
I finished it with three big serves in a row. I think he only got a racket on a couple of them. I was serving gor the biggest title of my career and I served as well as I had ever done.

In the moments after a special match like this there are certain people you want to be with. Not everyone got to see what I was really like after Wimbledon, even though Kim and my mum and dad would have known how I was feeling. They had seen me lose so many of those matches before. That made me doubt myself – and maybe they doubted me as well – so it was great to be able to spend two or three seconds with them straight after I’d won. They knew all the work that went into the victory and how many tough losses there had been along the way. Out of all the things that happened to me in 2012, winning the gold medal was the proudest moment.

There had been four weeks to the day between one of the hardest moments of my life and one of the most fulfilling. Roger was involved in both of them and he made them special because he’s arguably the greatest of all time.

I was nervous before the final of the Olympics but I don’t remember feeling the same fear as before at Wimbledon. Maybe when I was playing on Centre Court before I felt I had to behave myself, because everyone was watching me and maybe I felt a bit self-conscious. People weren’t necessarily waiting for me to slip up but if I did, somebody would have something to say about it and everyone would have an opinion on what I had or hadn’t done. But after Wimbledon, people accepted my flaws – and I have loads of them. People seemed to see me for what I am and how I express myself, not judge me on what I should or shoukdn’t do.

I remember shaking my head when I was up there on the podium, ready to receive the medal. All of the guys in my team were there and the podiums were set up so that I was facing them. Seeing them all smiling, and everyone looking so proud, amde me feel wonderful. Yes, I was proud of myself, but when I saw everyone smiling and everyone singing the national anthem, I got a real sense of togetherness.
Maybe we don’t show enough of that in our country, and maybe the result is that sometimes we don’t get a sense that everyone can pull together for the same cause. When I saw Sir Chris Hoy holding the flag at the opening ceremony and he was completely blubbing the whole way around, I realised that you don’t get that in other competitions and that the London Olympics was really specials.

Check out the whole match here.

Andy Murray, London Olympics

From Andy Murray’s autobiography, Seventy-Seven

Beijing was one of the best experiences I’d ever had as an athlete. To be involved and part of the team, to go to the opening ceremony, and to speak to many gifted, wonderful sports people – I absolutely loved it. But then I lost in the first round to Lu Yen-hsun of Taiwan.

When I weighed myself the night after my loss, I discovered I’d lost five kilos since leaving Cincinnati a week before. I was completely dehydrated. I had not been a professional in my approach because I was so excited at being part of the Olympics. I knew that when London came around my attitude had to be different. I was never going to make the Beijing mistake again. I had forgotten I was there to win matches for the country, because I was enjoying the experience so much.

I didn’t think that going to the opening ceremony in Beijing would affect me. It was only in hindsight that I realised I had used tremendous amounts of energy, speaking to loads of people and enjoying the whole occasion. For some participants that is what the Olympics should be about, but I know how disappointed I was to lose so early because I had a chance to do well for the country and I blew it.

I would have loved to have gone to the London 2012 opening ceremony – it turned out to be the most spectacular event – but it was the wrong thing to do from a professional perspective. I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.
However, I was among the fortunate people nominated to carry the flame on its journey across the nation. That was a tremendous privilege. OK, I was only able to carry it inside the confines of the All England Club, but there were memebers and players in attendance – I remember Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych cutting short their practice sessions to come and watch me receive the flame.

My first match against Stanislas Wawrinka was a really tough one. I had been practicing with him so often beforehand .. and killing him actually! In those ten days, I think I had won every practice set and I had just felt great generally.[…]

I watched as many of the other sports as I could when I wasn’t playing, and I wanted to try to be a part of that success. When I lose at the Wimbledon Championships, there isn’t usually anyone else left for British fans to support; if I’d have lost at the Olympics, there was still Bradley Wiggins, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Chris Hoy. If I had lost, I doubt whether people would have spent much time talking about it, because there were so many other exciting things going on elsewhere to concentrate on.

The night before playing in the final, I watched Ennis, Farah and Greg Rutherford all win gold in Olympic Stadium. The atmosphere was outrageous, it was crackling. The country was alive with optimism, there was momentum and everyone was so positive, from the spectators to the media.
In advance of the Games, the stories had all been about the prospect of terrible traffic problems, potential security problems and ticketing issues. People thought the opening ceremony would not be as good as in Beijing, but it proved to be an incredible spectacle.
Then a few days, it was all: ‘We haven’t won a gold yet’. Everything was negative again. But once the first gold arrived, then another, then a couple more, it all changed. There was nothing to complain about anymore and the whole nation was carried along on a wave of excitement. The athletes performed better than anyone was expecting – career-best performances, golds, silvers, glorious achievements – and I put a lot of that down to the positive momentum all around. As an individual sportsman, I’d certainly never experienced anything like it.

I managed to make good progress through my first four rounds, only losing one set to Marcos Baghdatis, who challenged me really hard again. Then, after I defeated Nicolas Almagro on No.1 Court, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge amongst the spectators, I was into the semi-finals to play Novak again. I spoke to Ivan the evening before and his lessage was the same as usual: to impose my game on the match, play the game on my terms and not to lose running around with my arse against the back fence.
I managed to execute the game plan, turning in one of my most complete performances of the year. In windy conditions I thought I struck the ball really well. In the first set there were some tremendous rallies, but the second set, by comparison, wasn’t quite as good. Novak had a lot of break points, but I served really well and hung tough in those moments and just managed to get the break myself in the end.
The atmosphere was unbelievable, different to anything I’d experienced before. I’d always said that the mnight matches at the US Open had the best atmosphere, but they weren’t even close to what it was like against Novak.
I celebrated victory in the normal way until I sat down in the chair. Suddenly, I leapt up again, as if electricity was surging through my body. I’d realised I had guaranteed myself an Olympic medal.

The final would be a rematch against Roger for Olympic gold.

Rafa Nadal, Beijing Olympics

Excerpt from Rafael Nadal‘s autobiography Rafa:

I stayed in the Olympic village with all the other athletes, and once again, as in the Davis Cup, I had a taste of that team spirit that I loved so much when I played football as a kid. Living with my Spanish teammates, in the same residential compound, meeting and making friends with the Spanish basketball team and track athletes (some of whom, a little embarrassingly, would stop me in the corridors, or in the communal laundry room where we all washed our clothes, to ask me for my autograph) and stepping out in uniform alongside them all for the opening ceremony – these were unforgettable experiences. But my sense of good fortune came accompanied by a strong dose of indignation.

I understood better than ever just how privileged we professional tennis players are, and how unjust is the predicament of so many Olympic athletes. They train incredibly hard, at least as hard as we do, yet the rewards tend to be far smaller. A tennis player ranked number eighty in the world has economic benefits, social privileges, and a degree of recognition beyond the dreams of someone who is number one in track and field, swimming, or gymnastics. On the tennis circuit everything is laid on for us all year round, and the money we receive allows us the chance to save for our futures. These people train with the discipline of monks over a period of four years in preparation for the one competition that stands out above all others, the Olympics, yet the vast majority of them receive very little support relative to the effort they invest. It’s admirable that they should prepare so rigorously, at so much personal sacrifice, for the mere satisfaction of competing and because of the passion they feel for their sports. That has a value beyond price. But that shouldn’t have to be enough. With all the income the International Olympic Committee generates from the Games – an event that depends for its success on the commitment of the athletes – you’d think they might be able to share the cash a little more fairly. In my case, I have no need to be paid, luckily, but an athlete who runs in the 400 meters or the marathon needs a lot of financial backing just to be able to train at the level required to make it to the Olympics and then compete for the top prizes. I understand that tennis has broader public appeal, at least over the course of a calendar year, but I think it’s unjust that more of an effort is not made to allow these incredibly dedicated people to live more decently and train in better conditions.

But these were my reflections after it was all over. Moaning and griping was not what defined my time in Beijing. What stays with me, above all, was the camaraderie between the athletes and the chance I had to learn about so many different new sports and discover how much we all had in common. Just to be able to participate, and to have access to a world I never thought I’d get to know, was uplifing enough.

Then to win gold in the men’s singles, after beating Djokovic in the semis and Fernando Gonzalez of Chile in the final, and to see the Spanish flag being raised to the accompaniment of the national anthem as I stood on the winner’s podium: well, it was one of my life’s proudest moments. People don’t usually associate the Olympic Games with tennis. I certainly didn’t when I was growing up. The game only reappeared as an Olympic sport in 1988, after a 64 years absence. But in tennis players’ minds Olympic gold has become something to covet. After a Grand Slam, it’s now the prize we most cherish.

Extract from Tennis’s strangest matches by Peter Seddon:

Since the Modern Olympic Games began in 1896, the number of occasions on which British competitors have made a clean sweep of the medals in one event has been, let’s admit it, rather fewer than they would have liked. So hats off to the British ladies’ tennis squad at the 1908 London Olympics who saw off all opposition to take gold, silver and bronze.

What a proud moment it must have been as the long-skirted heroines ran down every ball and rallied to the cause, pink cheeks all aglow, with true British spirit. But alas, behind this most agreeable 1-2-3 is a rather different story.

What could possibly be insinuated? Might it have been a hollow victory? Who were the opposition? In truth, a more appropriate question is ‘Where was the opposition?’ Let the farce commence.
Matters began only mildly strangely when it was decided there would be two Olympic tennis titles that year, a covered court tournament staged at Queen’s Club in May, followed by a contest on grass at Wimbledon in July.

Gladys Eastlake Smith served notice of Britain’s triumphal intentions by taking the indoor gold and two months later the grass court Olympics sprang into action at Wimbledon’s Worple Road ground.
‘Sprang’ may be too strong a word. Teetered proved to be about right. Thirteen ladies put their names forward for entry into the singles, among them six overseas players willing to mix it with the seven-strong British field. But things started to go pear-shaped early on.

Officials in charge of the draw squirmed uneasily as none of the overseas players turned up! They comforted themselves with the thought that it could still be a cracking contest even though Britain was guaranteed the medals. It was, after all, a strong field.

There was Charlotte Sterry, fresh from winning her fifth Wimbledon crown the month before, and six-times champion Blanche Hillyard; what a battle that might be. ‘Might’ proved to be the operative word as both of them scratched. The officials, meanwhile, merely began to itch a little.
That still left fine five players chasing those three elusive medals. It was fighting talk but nothing more as the destination of gold, silver and bronze was decided by playing just four matches in four rounds.

In a ludicrous draw, which included all eight phantom players, walkovers were the order of the day. Madame Fenwick, the French hope, was entirely conspicuous by her absence but still progressed to the semi-final draw by first ‘defeating’ the equally invisible Austrian torchbearer Miss Matouch and following this walkover with another over fellow truant Charlotte Sterry.

While Madame Fenwick might have read of her disembodied Olympic progress with not a little astonishment from the comfort of a sun-drenched terrace somewhere on the French Riviera, Dorothy Chambers Lambert seized gold by winning three matches comfortably. Her opponent in the final was Dora Boothby, who just about made a game of it by losing 6-1 7-5 after getting there without striking a ball, courtesy of two walkovers. Thus she became the honoured recipient of an Olympic silver medal without winning a match and by taking only six games.

Even that performance was heroic compared to the one that captured the bronze; that coveted gong went to Ruth Winch whose only match was her semi-final defeat againt Chambers Lambert in which she took the meastly total of two games.

No matter! It was a triple triumph for the British who had steadfastly overcome the absentee Austain, French and Hungarian entants by adhering to the most important principle of lawn tennis competition. The cynics may chorus ‘It’s a lottery’ and that’s precisely the point.

Those British girls weren’t daft. They knew the first rule of any competition. If you’re not in it you can’t win it.