I don’t remember much from the final game to be honest. Playing in front of a home crowd is not something that tennis players get to do often, let alone playing at a home Olympics. What I do remember though, as soon as I had hit the ace to win the match I felt this incredible sense of pride like I had never experienced before.
It had been a difficult couple of weeks after losing the Wimbledon final, and finally I felt like I could hold my head high again.
It was a different feeling to any tournament I had won before. After the disappointment I had suffered on Centre Court at Wimbledon against Roger Federer, it was an incredible feeling to be able to turn the tables and win through. After losing that Wimbledon final, I began to accept that I might never win on the big stage, which sounds pretty negative but it actually helped me mentally.
I remember playing in the Olympic tournament with a completely different mindset. Particularly before the final, I remember being relaxed. To this day it’s one of the best performances of my career and the pride of winning such a prestigious event in front of a home crowd is something I will never forget.
I remember being unbelievably excited. I should have been shattered after playing both the singles and the mixed doubles finals but I wasn’t. After my match I had a lot of media to do, but after that we all went back to the Athletes’ Village to celebrate. The mood, particularly around Team GB, was incredibly positive. It was the day after Super Saturday [when Great Britain won three athletics gold medals] and everyone was incredibly excited, there was a lot of celebrating going on, it was a lot of fun.
It’s still an incredibly special feeling. It’s different to the Grand Slams, we have opportunities every year to win those; the opportunity to win gold only comes around every four years, so I think among the players it’s a pretty special occasion.
It’s definitely up there as being one of, if not my favourite victory of my career. Wimbledon was incredible in 2013, but winning a gold at a home Olympics in front of one of the loudest crowds I’ve ever played in front of is something I will never do again and I’ll never forget it.
I remember most walking out onto Centre Court on the day of the final. The noise was deafening, I’ve walked out onto Centre Court a lot, and I have never experienced an atmosphere like that. The national pride that was around Great Britain during the Olympics was incredible and I think it’s something that a lot of people, not just the athletes, will remember for a long time.
Lining up next to my brother Jamie to play doubles for Great Britain will always stick with me. It’s always a huge honour to play for my country but there’s something special about representing your country alongside your brother; we had done it before in Beijing but being at Wimbledon in that atmosphere, it was just a bit special.
My medal didn’t really change much for me to be honest. I’ve lived in the public eye for a long time so although the media attention after I won the gold medal was intense, it eventually died down. What winning did give me though was a lot of confidence heading out to America for the US Open. I went on to win the final and capture my first Grand Slam title.
I hope people don’t view me differently because of it, I’d like to think that people will always just see me as the hard-working player I have always strived to be, whatever my results on the court.
I was awarded an OBE [Queen’s honour] in December 2012 after I had won both the gold and the US Open. I was fortunate enough to be presented with my OBE by the Duke of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace. He’s a really nice person and he enjoys his sport, and plays a bit of tennis. It was a great day and it was an incredibly humbling experience to be recognised.
The Olympics is the perfect place for upsets, you see a lot of personal bests and a lot of records broken. My best advice to other players would be to give everything you can and see what happens on the day. Being at the start line or the opening match in an Olympic Games is different to anything you’ll ever experience, so make sure you give it your all and try and enjoy it.
Source: ITF Olympic book
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.
Tomas Berdych visited the H&M Oxford Circus flagship store in London today to meet fans and celebrate the launch of his updated tennis collection. Enjoy a few pics: