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.

Rafael Nadal, 2008 Olympic Games

I felt very big emotions. It is one of the most important victories in my career, without a doubt, so I was just happy about that and I really enjoyed the whole experience in Beijing. To finish the two weeks there with a victory was something so, so special for me.

It’s different than any other event but at the same time it is the most difficult event to win, because you’re only going to have maybe one or two, or if you’re lucky, three chances in your career. So you appreciate the thing that you made it, and those were my thoughts at that moment. (I had) very high emotions when listening to the national anthem, and at the same time knowing it’s something special.

Winning the Olympic gold medal is one of the most important things in my career, for sure. At the end of the day the most important thing is your personal feeling. And, for me, that I won the Olympics is at the higher level.

I keep all my trophies and my medal in the museum of the Rafa Nadal Sports Centre which includes the Rafa Nadal Academy in Manacor, Mallorca.

Every event is important to us on the tour. On the tour we have amazing events. (But) the Olympics is more than just sport. It is the world of sport in general, so it’s the most important event in the world of sport. The experience of enjoying it with the rest of my (Spanish) colleagues in the Village for two weeks, and knowing a little bit more about different sports, is something that has been very interesting and I really enjoyed it a lot.

All the moments in the Olympic Village – that was unbelievable for me. To enjoy those two weeks with the rest of the Spanish athletes but at the same time with the biggest stars of different sports of the world is something unforgettable.

I watched other sports. I watch other sports all the time. I am a big fan of sports in general. I only had the chance to go to the basketball.

I enjoy knowing that I’m an Olympic champion. Some experiences since 2008 have been tough for me. I didn’t have the chance to compete at London 2012. I hope this time I’m going to have the chance to enjoy the experience again and I’m really excited about it.

I don’t think very often about the things that I won. That’s the real thing. I go day by day and I’m happy with all the things that have happened in my career and my life. In the world of sport there isn’t a lot of time to think about what happened. There’s only time to think about what’s coming.

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.

Justine Henin, Athens 2004

I had a bad virus – I had CMV, cytomegalovirus – for a few months, and at a certain time I thought the Olympic Games are not going to be for me this time. But then I decided to go because it was an experience you maybe live once, twice, in your career. I said I’m going to go and in Athens, it’s going to be so special to be back where the history of the Olympic Games is.

Match after match I was winning and I couldn’t believe what was happening. In the semifinals I came back from nowhere, losing 5-1 in the third and I won the match. And then I played the final and I won and it was just, phew, when they played the national anthem I was so proud. Yeah, I was so proud to feel the whole country behind me. We have the Grand Slams and, of course, with tennis the Grand Slams are very important. But the Olympic Games, I never thought it would be so emotional for me and it was so different from what I lived all the time on the tour.

Usually I keep my emotions for me, but there was a lot of joy. There was a lot of surprise, of sharing with the Belgian delegation. All the athletes were there. I didn’t cry, but I did sing. And I was so very, very proud. After the match and the ceremony I came back to the Village and all the athletes were waiting for me in the Belgian house and we celebrated together for an hour. Everyone was so happy and it’s just a great memory.

I stayed in the Village. I wanted to be in the Village. Some players stay in hotels to be away from all the atmosphere because it takes up a lot of your energy. I’ve been very impressed with the Olympic Village, all these athletes from different sports, the restaurant where you have 10,000 athletes from different countries. Also, especially, individual sports are very difficult if you are alone. Of course, you have your team around you, but it’s only you, and in the Village you feel the energy from all the other athletes, and the tension and that they were anxious also when they started their competition. And we could also talk about that.

When I went to the Olympic Games I never thought I would be so proud of the medal and I think today there is my first French Open and right behind it is the Olympic gold medal in my memories. Just the experience was so fun and the fact that for me, I was coming from nowhere. Two or three months before the Olympic Games I couldn’t practise for an hour and a half, and there, it was just like magical, something happened that is very hard to describe.

I think I won the gold medal at 10 in the evening and the day after we were flying at 7:30 in the morning. But at the airport there were a lot of people waiting for me. The whole country was behind me. It’s not in Belgium that we win a gold medal every day – it’s a small country – so there was a big celebration there at the airport.

It’s the experience you have to live once in your career. And, of course, you want to win and to have a medal, but just the humanexperience is unbelievable, and you see all the athletes and you feel a little bit more normal because you are in the middle of so many thousands of athletes. You open your mind to so many different things, and I remember from my experience my eyes were open like this (opens them really wide) all the time, looking at everything.

Source: ITF Olympic book