Murray and Robson just pipped to gold medal
Just over an hour had passed since Murray hammered an ace past Roger Federer to clinch the men’s singles title and the gold medal, but instead of celebrating his win, Murray was back on centre court with Laura Robson in the final of the mixed doubles. The British pair was one of the surprise packages at this year’s Olympics, and had knocked out a number of higher seeds en-route to the final, but the pair of Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka presented a different kind of challenge.
Mirnyi, who won the mixed doubles at Wimbledon, and Azarenka, who is currently ranked number one in the world, showed why they had been awarded the first seed when they dispatched third-seeded Americans Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymon in the semi-final last night. The Belarusian pair also won the mixed doubles at the US open five years ago, and this evening’s final promised to be a more even affair than the one which had just preceded it.
Concerns that Andy Murray might be fatigued after his three-set victory earlier seemed ill-founded after he and Robson jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead; the Scot’s intensity seemed not to have dipped at all, and judging by Robson’s performance, her partner’s determination was infectious. The Belarussians held their next two service games but were unable to break back, and the Brits held on to clinch the first set 6-2.
Unlike Federer, however, Mirnyi and Azarenka returned for the second set seemingly reinvigorated and after both Belarussians and Murray held serve, Robson was broken, and the Brits’ opponents now held a 3-1 lead. Just as the pair from Belarus has failed to break back in the first, so too were the British pair unable to do so in the second, and Mirnyi served out to take the set 6-3.
The stage was set for a climactic Champions tie-breaker, but the momentum was still with the Belarussians who took the first three points. It was easy to forget that Murray had just played five sets when he crashed another ace down the middle of the court, and after an unforced error and a Robson volley which just caught the line, parity was restored. Robson was then guilty of allowing her nerves to get the better of her as she sent a backhand well wide before double faulting; Murray came to the rescue again, however, with two well-struck forehands down the left side of the court.
At 6-6 Murray served to try to give the Brits their first lead of the tie break, but Mirnyi’s return was straight at Robson and the 18-year-old couldn’t react quickly enough. Murray then returned Azarenka’s serve straight into the net, and a Robson forehand drifted wide to give the pair from Belarus a 9-6 lead and three championship points. The British pair fought back to 9-8, but Robson couldn’t return an Azarenka volley and the Belarussians clinched victory and the gold, proving their status as top seeds was well deserved.
Murray and Robson will have to content themselves with silver meanwhile. At 18 years of age, Robson is the third-youngest female Olympic tennis medallist, and she and Murray know that they will have more opportunities to compete for gold in four years’ time.
Theo Chiles, Olympics correspondent