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Monday, August 6, 2012 - Page updated at 09:30 p.m.
Murray learns from loss, takes Olympic gold
By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA
Andy Murray put his hands over his face when it was over, then crouched down as Centre Court roared. He quickly popped back up and went to the net to shake Roger Federer's hand.
One month after anguish at Wimbledon, it was elation in the Olympics - all in the same spot.
Murray used an aggressive approach to beat Federer 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 for the men's singles title, delighting a partisan crowd that had watched the dour Scotsman wilt in his biggest matches all too often.
Not this time.
Sunday's victory marked a career breakthrough for Murray. He has dropped all four of his Grand Slam finals, three against Federer, including the devastating loss at the All England Club a month ago.
"It has been the best week of my tennis career by a mile," Murray said. "I've had a lot of tough losses. This is the best way to come back from the Wimbledon final. I'll never forget it."
Murray swept nine consecutive games to take control, breaking Federer's serve four times in a row. He erased all nine break points he faced.
"He never looked back," Federer said. "His credit for getting in the lead and using the crowd to come through. He did an unbelievable job."
Federer was going for a career Golden Slam but settled for silver - his first singles medal in his fourth Olympics.
"Don't feel too bad for me," he said. "I felt like I won my silver, I didn't lose it. So I feel really happy."
Murray became the first British man to win the gold in singles since Josiah Ritchie in 1908. He also picked up a silver in mixed doubles when he and Laura Robson lost to Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi of Belarus 2-6, 6-3, 1-0 (8).
In the day's first match on Centre Court, women's singles champion Serena Williams teamed with sister Venus to win their third career doubles gold medal. They defeated Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-4 under the retractable roof.
Serena became tennis' first double gold medalist at an Olympics since Venus won singles and doubles at the 2000 Sydney Games. The sisters also won the doubles gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. And with Sunday's victory, each has a record four Olympic tennis gold medals.
"Crazy," Serena said. "I'm always copying her. I forgot that she did it in Sydney and I do it here. We're the same doubles team, we just split this to singles, so it's cool."
Mike Bryan won his second medal of the weekend when he and U.S. teammate Lisa Raymond took the bronze in mixed doubles, which was back in the Olympics for the first time since 1924. Bryan and his brother Bob won the gold in men's doubles Saturday.
Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova of Russia took the bronze in women's doubles, while Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina finished third in men's singles.
The focus for Murray and Co. now turns to the hard-court circuit leading up to the U.S. Open. But the Olympic experience had a captivating effect on many of the players.
"Every Olympics has been a life-changer for me," said Federer, who teamed with Swiss countryman Stanislas Wawrinka to win doubles gold in Beijing. "Good or bad, I think I took away a lot of positives, from the Olympic spirit, from the way, I don't know, you appreciate other sports, appreciate winning, losing."
The world No. 1 said he had tears in his eyes after a tight first-round victory at the Olympics, and then felt emotionally exhausted after a marathon semifinal win against del Potro, who wept after the third set went Federer's way, 19-17. The big Argentinian was crying again Sunday, this time with happiness, after defeating Novak Djokovic for the bronze medal.
"I don't have the words to explain," Del Potro said. "It's similar to winning a Grand Slam (title) or maybe even bigger."
Federer said the draining semifinal "might have cost him" against Murray, though he praised the Briton for executing a forceful game plan that stopped him from getting his "teeth" into the match.
And, it turns out, last month's loss to Federer played a key part in the Olympic victory. Murray won the first set of the Wimbledon final and had chances in the second. He found himself in the same place Sunday, only this time he converted those opportunities.
"I'm starting to find a way of treating every single point exactly the same throughout the whole match," he said. "When you do that, you tend to play better for longer in the match."
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