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.
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.
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club:
Wimbledon guided tour – part 1
Wimbledon guided tour – part 2
Wimbledon Centre Court roof
Court 3 : a new Show Court at Wimbledon
Waiting in the Queue to Wimbledon
Wimbledon Museum: The Queue exhibition
The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum: Player Memorabilia
A trip down memory lane:
Wimbledon ‘s biggest upsets
Wimbledon memories: Mrs Blanche Bingley Hillyard
Wimbledon memories: Charlotte Cooper Sterry
Wimbledon memories: Dora Boothby
Portrait of Wimbledon champion Ann Jones
Wimbledon 1969: Laver’s getting beat by an Indian
Rod Laver – John Newcombe Wimbledon 1969
Around the grounds at Wimbledon in 1971
Wimbledon 1975: Ashe vs Connors
1976: Bjorn Borg first Wimbledon title
Portrait of 5-time Wimbledon champion Bjorn Borg
Wimbledon 1976: Chris Evert defeats Evonne Goolagong
Portrait of Virginia Wade, winner in 1977
1981: First Wimbledon title for McEnroe
1982: Jimmy Connors defeats John McEnroe
1984: John McEnroe defeats Jimmy Connors
1985: Boris Becker, the man on the moon
1986: Boris Becker defeats Ivan Lendl, wins second Wimbledon title
Portrait of 3-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker
Wimbledon 1988: An era ends as Graf beats Navratilova
Wimbledon 1988: Edberg a deserving new champion
Portrait of 2-time Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg
Wimbledon 1990: Becker vs Edberg
1990: Martina Navatilova’s historic 9th Wimbledon title
Wimbledon 1991: the first Middle Sunday
1992: first Grand Slam for Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi: thanks to Wimbledon I realized my dreams
1993: Pete Sampras defeats Jim Courier
1994: Pete Sampras defeats Goran Ivanisevic
1995: Tim Henman disqualified!
Wimbledon 1996: singing in the rain
1996: Richard Krajicek upsets Pete Sampras
Wimbledon 1996: a winning streak
1997: Pete Sampras defeats Cédric Pioline
2000 Wimbledon SF: Pat Rafter defeats Andre Agassi
2000 Wimbledon Final: Pete Sampras defeats Pat Rafter
2001 Wimbledon 4th round: Federer defeats Sampras
Wimbledon 2010: Rafael Nadal defeats Tomas Berdych
The Spirit of Wimbledon: a 4-part documentary by Rolex retracing Wimbledon history
Wimbledon 2012: Roger Federer defeats Andy Murray
Andy Murray’s road to the Wimbledon 2013 final
Wimbledon 2013: Andy Murray, 77 years after Fred Perry
Wimbledon 2014 coverage
Wimbledon 2015 coverage
Fashion and gear:
Who will win Wimbledon 2016?
- Novak Djokovic (53%, 50 Votes)
- Roger Federer (21%, 20 Votes)
- Andy Murray (17%, 16 Votes)
- Dominic Thiem (5%, 5 Votes)
- Kei Nishikori (1%, 1 Votes)
- Stan Wawrinka (1%, 1 Votes)
- Tomas Berdych (1%, 1 Votes)
- Milos Raonic (1%, 1 Votes)
- Richard Gasquet (0%, 0 Votes)
- David Goffin (0%, 0 Votes)
- Someone else (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 95
Who will win Wimbledon 2016?
- Serena Williams (33%, 8 Votes)
- Garbine Muguruza (33%, 8 Votes)
- Victoria Azarenka (17%, 4 Votes)
- Simona Halep (8%, 2 Votes)
- Angelique Kerber (4%, 1 Votes)
- Someone else (4%, 1 Votes)
- Agnieszka Radwanska (0%, 0 Votes)
- Roberta Vinci (0%, 0 Votes)
- Belinda Bencic (0%, 0 Votes)
- Venus Williams (0%, 0 Votes)
- Timea Bacsinszky (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 24
Novak Djokovic Wimbledon outfit
Kei Nishikori Wimbledon outfit
In the Olympics if you lose the final, you still get a silver medal. A runner-up trophy at a Slam doesn’t really compare with a silver medal. In the Wimbledon final, you have everything to gain and everything to lose at the same time. I had come through that semi-final against Janowicz and I knew I had a great chance of winning the final.
I was OK until the last 30 minutes before the match and then the nerves hit me again. I’m sure Novak, Rafa and Roger and their teams were nervous but the knowledge that they’d won Wimbledon before must have helped. Last year I lost and I did think that I might never get another chance to do it. For me, someone who has never won it before, and my support team, the nervousness is heightened. And that’s before you even think about it being my home Grand Slam and the extra expectation that entails.[…]
Then, finally, there is the walk to Centre Court. The one thing that helped me there is that I’ve walked through the corridor so many times. As soon as I started the walk, I felt better. It didn’t feel uncomfortable, the nerves eased. I know those hallways. I have sat on Centre Court, I have played numerous matches out there. I felt even better than the previous year. Walking to the court I could see people out of the window. People going up to the Hill, looking at their tickets, rushing to take their places. They looked happy. So I felt I should be, too.
The beginning of any match is really important, and even more so in a Grand Slam final. Statistics show that if you win the first set in a Slam final, you are much more likely to go and win the match. And this time, I had three break points in the first game. I wanted to get that break from 0-40, I was hitting the ball well from the back of the court, but I didn’t quite make it.[…]
The final was much as I expected it, full of deep-hitting, eneregy-sapping rallies, Novak striking the ball out of the middle, and both of us looking for that essence of authority. Winning the first set was going to be critical and, after I couldn’t convert any of my chances in the first game, I broke in the third with a backhand down the line, wrong-footing him. We had played 20 tortuous minutes and it was only 2-1. Then, in game four, I had three break points and took advantage of the second.
I immediately had Novak on the back foot on his serve again, earning three break points and taking the second. I hung on to my advantage this time, and when I eventually served out he set to love, I felt a rush. I had played the perfect service game and pretty much a perfect set.
I did get a bit defensive at the start of the second set and Novak pushed out to a 4-1 lead. At 4-2, I had two break points, but he won three in a row for advantage. I hung around in another long rally, broke his next serve and he double-faulted the game away. 4-3.
Four games to three became 4-4 and 5-5. At 15-all in the eleventh game, Novak got involved in a dispute with umpire Mohamed Lahyani about a baseline call – Novak thought the ball was out but there was no call and Hawk-Eye, so I’m told, said it was good. I had two break points and on the second, he netted. For the second time, I served out to love, this time finishing the set with an ace. Two sets to love up. A nice cushion but the job was nowhere near finished.[…]
At least the finishing line was in sight. I imagine that’s the same as when you reach the last kilometre of a marathon and you feel much better than you did five kilometres out because you know the end is close. In the same way, it is a lot easier to chase the balls down when you are only one set away from finishing the match rather than another two-and-a-half sets, which is what it was looking like at 4-1 down 15 minutes previously. I was now in a position where I could really put pressure on an try to close out the match.[…]
I felt I was beginning to read Novak’s intentions, even though I went from 2-0 up to 4-2 down in the third. I broke back, setting it up with a swinging forehand and he missed his backhand long. Then I held for four-all, with another of those running forehands to a backhand drop shot.
In the next game at 15-all, again I had to cover some ground. Novak played a drop shot, I could only flick it back, he played a lob, but I had the time to spin round and give chase and got enough of a racket on it to fire the ball at him before he could react. 15-30.
I suppose the next point was one of the most crucial. Novak struck a very solid forehand into my forehand corner which meant a scramble and a forehand ‘get’. He swept his backhand deep into the opposite corner, which I managed to get back as well, this time with interest. he could only play an off-balance backhand volley and i had read it, moving up the court for a forehand winner.
An explosion of noise. The crowd was right in my head now. I could sense their support, their desire, their drive. I wanted to get them over the line. I was blowing hard, but so was Novak. When he netted a forehand on the next poin point, I remeber him walking back to the chair and looking at him for a split-second. He kicked out at his racket bag. He was suffering. I was about to serve for Wimbledon.
A few fraught minutes (and deuces) later, the title was mine.
What a strange week for Andy Murray: it started with the announcement of his split with Amélie Mauresmo on Monday, and ended with a win over Novak Djokovic in the final of the Rome Masters on his 29th birthday.
The world number 2 had an impressive clay-court season: 1 semifinal in Monte Carlo (loss to Nadal), 1 final in Madrid (loss to Djokovic) and 1 title in Rome.
Djokovic, Murray and Nadal who shared the 3 clay-court Masters 1000 titles are the big favorites for Roland Garos, with Nishikori as a serious contender. Who do you think will win the title? please share your thoughts and follow our Roland Garros 2016 coverage.
Photo credit: Marianne Bevis