In his best season on the Tour, Andy Murray claimed 78 wins and nine titles in 2016, finishing as the year-end no. 1 for the first time after a wild chase with Novak Djokovic that had to be decided in the title match of the ATP Finals!
After another setback at the Australian Open, Andy lost the ground before the clay season where he got back at his best, winning Rome and reaching the final of Madrid and Roland Garros, both to Novak. Queen's and Wimbledon were in Andy's hands as well, taking a break before the Olympic Games in Rio where he was one of the title favorites.
Andy scored three comfortable wins and overpowered Steve Johnson and Fabio Fognini to reach the gold medal match, hoping to defend the title won four years ago at Wimbledon against Roger Federer. On the other side of the net stood Juan Martin del Potro who defeated Novak Djokovic in the opening round and it turned out to be one of the encounters of the season, with Murray prevailing 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in four hours and two minutes to write history as the first player with two men's singles Olympic gold medals!
Andy created 23 break chances and converted nine to control the pace, getting broken six times from 12 opportunities given to the Argentine. A volley winner pushed Andy in front in game two and Juan Martin broke back in the very next game when Murray netted a backhand.
Struggling to find the range on the backhand, Delpo sent one of those wide in game four to lose serve at love, missing a forehand in the next game and allowing Andy to forge a 4-1 lead. It was the Briton who played a loose service game at 4-2, giving serve away to keep Juan Martin in the set before four good holds on both sides.
Serving to stay in the set at 5-6, del Potro lost the focus against strong returns from the Briton who fired a backhand down the line winner to earn the crucial break and clinch the opener 7-5 after a grueling 74 minutes.
Juan Martin was ready to fight for every point, opening the second set with a break when his backhand down the line passed Murray, gaining the momentum and saving three break chances in the second game, closing it with a service winner to cement the advantage and blasting another one in game four for a 3-1.
We saw some excellent serving on both sides and Delpo moved 5-3 ahead with an unreturned serve, creating a set point on the return in the next game. Andy saved it with a volley winner to extend the set but nothing could have helped him when Juan Martin fired a forehand down the line winner at 5-4 to clinch the set after an hour and get himself in a good position before set number three.
Andy restored the order, placing a backhand down the line winner for a gentle hold at the beginning of the third set and bringing the third game home with an ace. A service winner gave him a 3-2 advantage before scoring a break when Delpo sprayed a forehand error that cost him dearly, having to chase the result to get back on the positive side of the scoreboard.
The momentum was on the side of the Briton, though, delivering another break in game eight with a return winner to wrap up the set and make a big step towards the gold. Andy had the upper hand in this part of the encounter despite serving at only 45%, playing well in his service games and converting two out of four break chances for a one-sided result.
Refusing to surrender, Juan Martin broke early in the fourth set when Murray sprayed a forehand error, staying in front only for one game as Andy pulled it back after a beautiful drop shot that stayed out of Delpo's reach.
The third game brought the third break of serve after a fantastic volley from Juan Martin at the net, unable to confirm the lead and allowing Murray to break him again and level the score at 2-2. Andy was the first to make a hold after a service winner in game five, followed by del Potro who hit a service winner for a 3-3 and more drama, especially after he broke at 15 in game seven with a smash winner to move in front.
The Argentine held for a 5-3, preparing to serve for the set at 5-4 after Andy held at 15 in game nine. Standing two points from winning the set on two occasions, del Potro netted a routine backhand to suffer a break and distant himself from the finish line, sending all the momentum to the other side of the net.
Murray repelled two break points in game 11 to make an essential hold after another backhand error from Juan Martin who wasted a game point that could have delivered a tie break a few minutes later, allowing Murray to convert the second match point and start celebrating one of the most emotional titles of his career.
The encounter took everything from both players in the battle for the Olympic glory and it will be hard to match this level in Tokyo next year, no matter who will play in the best-of-three gold medal match.