|Andy Murray exults after delivering Great Britain the gold medal in men’s singles.|
WIMBLEDON, England — Unburdened at last by the weight of a nation and a nation’s wait, Andy Murray isn’t about to let one little preposition affect his perception of the greatest victory of his tennis career.
Maybe it didn’t happen during Wimbledon, but it happened at Wimbledon, in front of the same adoring fans desperate to see one of their own win something of magnitude on the revered All England Club lawn. So you’d better believe the Scotsman is savoring his three-set wipeout of Roger Federer in Sunday’s gold medal men’s singles match as if the quest has been his chief priority all along.
“This is the biggest win of my life,’’ said Murray, the world’s fourth-ranked player, after his strikingly efficient 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory over the top-ranked Federer. “This week has been absolutely incredible.”
It doesn’t require much searching to find elements of revenge and redemption in Murray’s victory, which made him the first British men’s singles champion since Josiah Ritchie in 1908. It was Federer who defeated Murray in the Wimbledon final four weeks ago to the day, leaving Murray, who was aiming to become the first home-grown Wimbledon champion since Fred Perry in 1936, to choke back tears and say he felt like he let a nation down.
Sunday, there were tears of celebration. Murray needed just an hour and 56 minutes to dismiss Federer, the 17-time Grand Slam champion who has defeated Murray in all three Grand Slam finals in which they’ve met. After closing out Federer with three consecutive aces that also stood as exclamation points, Murray dropped to his knees, then stood and hugged Federer as the crowd serenaded him with chants of, “An-dy, An-dy, An-dy.”
“The atmosphere was unbelievable. I didn’t feel that nervous,’’ Murray said. “They helped me get a few miles per hour on my serve at the end.”
The cheers never waned as he bounded into the crowd to embrace his girlfriend, parents, and coaches, before bounding back down to the grass while the crowd offered one more cathartic roar.
“It’s worth it,’’ said Murray, who actually has a 9-8 career record against Federer. “I’ve had a lot of tough losses in my career, but this is the best way to come back from the Wimbledon final. I’ll never forget it.”
After a 2-2 start in the first set, Murray won nine games in a row, the eighth coming on a Federer double fault that elicited a collective gasp. Soon, the only suspense was whether Federer would muster a comeback. It never happened. The most telling sign that it wasn’t going to be his day came on the third game of the second set. Murray fended off six break points, finally winning the game when Federer was long on a backhand. He had no answers for Murray’s forehand or confidently aggressive play.
“At the start of the match he was playing very well,’’ Murray said. “Once I got through that first set and held at 2-0 in the second after a long game, I felt much better. But no way did I expect a scoreline like that.”
At 31, it was likely Federer’s last chance to win an elusive Olympic singles gold. The silver is his first singles medal in four Olympics. Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro took bronze with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Serbia’s Novak Djokovic.
“I’m very happy. I am satisfied. I think this is as good as I could do during these championships,’’ said Federer. “Andy was much better than I was today in many aspects of the game. For me, it’s been a great month. I won Wimbledon, became world No. 1 again, and I got silver. Don’t feel too bad for me. I am very, very proud, honestly, to have won a silver.”
While Murray’s memories of this day won’t come accompanied by a shred of regret, technically it wasn’t quite perfect. Taking Centre Court for the mixed doubles gold medal match less than an hour after his singles triumph, Murray and partner Laura Robson settled for silver after falling, 2-6, 6-3, 1-0 (10-8), to Belarus’s Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka.
In the afternoon’s first match, Serena and Venus Williams won the gold medal in women’s doubles for the third straight Olympics with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic.
Chad Finn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at GlobeChadFinn.