Britain’s Andy Murray persevered past a dogged Juan Martin del Potro 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in more than four hours to achieve Olympic history on Sunday in Rio.
After a marathon battle, Murray finally felled gentle giant Juan Martin del Potro in four sets to win his second Olympic men’s singles gold medal.
The Scot outlasted the Argentine to become the first man to win back-to-back singles gold medals at the Olympics.
“I know tonight’s one of the hardest matches that I’ve had to play for a big, big title,” said Murray after the rollercoaster.
“I think, you know, the US Open final I played against Novak [Djokovic] when I won my first slam was very hard.
“But tonight I found really difficult. Emotionally it was tough,” he continued. “Physically, it was hard.
“There were so many ups and downs in the match. It was one of the toughest matches that I’ve played to win a big event, for sure.”
Andy Murray took gold; while Juan Martin del Potro won the silver and Kei Nishikori the bronze medal.
“The fact that it hasn’t been done before obviously shows that it’s very hard,” Murray told the ITF.
“I’m very proud to have been the first one to have done that.”
The gold-medal match, which finished about an hour shy of setting a record, extends Murray’s win streak to 18, a new career high.
His perfect stretch dates back to his Aegon Championships title run in June, which was Murray’s second ATP World Tour title of the season.
Murray took the opening set but handed over the second in the face of some characteristically huge hitting from Del Potro.
The world No. 2 seized back the initiative in the third, seemingly getting a handle on Del Potro’s fierce forehand.
But Del Potro, despite appearing to be on his last legs between points, somehow found a third, fourth and even fifth wind.
After a muscle rub from the physio at 3-2 in the fourth game and apparently running on his last reserves, he was soon back in his stride to steal a break in the seventh.
Coming into the match, del Potro had spent 11 hours and 36 minutes on court this week; Murray, eight hours, 10 minutes.
They both lumbered in between points. More than once they leaned on the net for extra support.
In the third, Murray snapped a cross-court winner to pull within a set of his second gold.
And at 6-5 in the fourth, Murray attacked with a heavy topspin forehand and del Potro netted a backhand slice to give Murray his second gold.
“I know tonight’s one of the hardest matches that I’ve had to play for a big, big title,” Murray told the ITF.
“There were so many ups and downs in the match. It was one of the toughest matches that I’ve played to win a big event.”
In the mixed doubles gold medal match, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jack Sock came back to win the all-American battle, prevailing against Rajeev Ram and Venus Williams 6-7(3), 6-1, 10-7.
Williams was trying to become the first tennis player to win five gold medals.
Sock takes home his second medal of the Rio Olympics, having won bronze in doubles with Steve Johnson.
“[I] had an incredible time, playing with a good friend in men’s doubles with Stevie.
“We were able to play some great tennis at the end and get a medal,” Sock said.
“To play with B. Mattek here and have an incredible time on the court, to have this gold medal around our necks, it’s pretty special and pretty surreal.
“Definitely a moment we’ll never forget and something we’ll always share together.”
Mattek-Sands and Ram, both first-time Olympians, won their first medals. “Very happy and proud of what we were able to do,” Ram said.
Czechs Radek Stepanek and Lucie Hradecka will bring back the mixed doubles bronze medal.
They beat Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza of India 6-1, 7-5.
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