by David Cox
Andy Murray: Such is the fickle nature of the press that Murray began 2012 with his chances of winning a major being once again written off. He’s turned all of that on its head after a quite remarkable summer. Roger Federer may have won Wimbledon but he dearly wanted an Olympic singles gold too. Murray refused to follow the script and instead handed the Swiss the most one-sided beating he’s taken since he played Rafa Nadal in the 2008 French Open final. A straight sets win over Novak Djokovic in the semis too. Who said this man can’t perform on the big occasion?
Juan Martin Del Potro: Del Potro may well have become physically attached to his bronze medal, he hasn’t been seen without it since Sunday’s medal ceremony. It was an emotional moment for the Argentine, it’s taken him a long time to get back to his best after a career threatening wrist injury and after beating Djokovic in straight sets, the floodgates opened. Having grown up watching the world’s leading tennis players treat the Olympics with the sort of indifference that Premier League stars reserve for pre-season friendlies, it’s been refreshing to now see the world’s best so visibly moved by the chance to win glory for their countries.
Maria Kirilenko: "It's always tough to lose but I can just take positives from this tournament," Kirilenko said after being denied bronze by Victoria Azarenka in the semi-finals. Fourth is the worst place to finish but in reaching the semi-finals Kirilenko had already overachieved by a country mile. Few saw her getting past Petra Kvitova in the quarters but the feisty Russian was simply too solid, outplaying the Czech in straight sets. Breaking the top ten now looks like a very realistic goal. Watch out for her in New York.
And there was happy ending to Kirilenko’s Olympic journey. After missing two opportunities to win a medal, it was third time lucky in the women’s doubles! After losing to the Williams sisters, Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova stunned the experienced American duo Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond in the bronze medal playoff.
Max Mirnyi: At the age of 35, the ‘Beast of Belarus’ finally won the gold he’s been chasing for the past twelve years, one of the most heartwarming stories of the entire Olympic tennis event. He came close in Sydney, losing in the singles quarter-finals to eventual silver medallist Tommy Haas but it was the mixed doubles which eventually gave Mirnyi his best chance of success. London 2012 was his final chance to win an Olympic medal (doubles specialists do enjoy added longevity but he’ll surely be too old in Rio, pushing 40 when those Games get underway) and he was fortunate enough to have Victoria Azarenka to team up with. They showed some steel to bounce back from a first set wipeout against Andy Murray and Laura Robson in the final and coolly capitalised on Robson’s nerves to clinch a decisive champion’s tiebreak.
Novak Djokovic: It seems a little harsh to put someone in the losers column for coming fourth in the Olympics but that’s how it will feel for Djokovic who set his heart on Olympic gold. The Serb was gutted to lose to Rafa Nadal in the semis four years ago and he just didn’t have his usual edge on the big points against both Murray and Del Potro this time round. How he must wish the Olympics had taken place twelve months ago. Rio must feel like a long time away right now.
Agnieszka Radwanska: The surprise package of Wimbledon 2012, Radwanska’s Olympic campaign lasted a matter of hours as she tumbled out on day one to the powerful German Julia Goerges. Radwanska’s game is based around her fleetness of foot around the back of the court and with the dewy grass courts proving treacherously slippy in the first couple of days, she was always going to struggle against a big hitter like Goerges. There was little joy for Radwanska in the doubles either as she and her sister lost in the quarters to top seed Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber.
Jamie Murray: Since Jamie won the Wimbledon mixed doubles title back in 2007, many column inches have been devoted to his chances of striking gold in the men’s event at London 2012 alongside Andy. However in the Olympics there are no easy draws and the British pair found themselves up against the experienced Austrians Jurgen Melzer and Alex Peya on day one. Andy’s class was giving the British duo the edge in the early stages of the deciding set and they went a break up on several occasions but Jamie’s weak and inconsistent first serve was proving a liability. The Austrians sniffed blood and took their chance, breaking Jamie twice in a row to hit back from 4-2 down to win 6-7, 7-6, 7-5.
It proved to be the end of Jamie’s Olympics. With the mixed event offering just a solitary spot for a British pair, Andy stepped in and went on to win silver with Laura Robson.
Memorable moment of the Games
When it comes to the Olympics, it’s the stories of redemption which are the most heartwarming. Take Lisa Raymond who turns 39 later this month. The American has been one of the world’s best doubles players for the best part of two decades but the Olympics has been a scene of perennial disappointment. She didn’t even make the US Olympic squads in 2000 and 2008, with her exclusion from the Sydney Games causing particular controversy. At the time as she was ranked No.1 in women’s doubles but to her anger, her place was given to a teenage Serena Williams who went on to win gold with sister Venus.
Desperate to finally win a medal, Raymond pinned her hopes on the women’s doubles, the event where she was top seed alongside Liezel Huber. They made it to the semi-finals but both Wimbledon finalists Lucie Hradecka and Andrea Hlavackova, and Russian duo Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova, proved too strong. Cue tears of despair.
But Raymond had one final shot. She battled through to the bronze medal playoff in the mixed doubles with Mike Bryan. This really was last chance saloon as she’ll be nearly 43 by Rio 2016. And to the elation of the entire US Olympic tennis squad, they saw off Sabine Lisicki and Christopher Kas in a tight clash to earn Raymond the medal she so richly deserves.