Federer through to face Murray in London 2012 final after longest Olympic match in history
Friday, 03 August 2012
August 3 - Swiss tennis icon Roger Federer has booked his spot in the London 2012 gold medal match, where he will face a rematch with Britain's Andy Murray, in dramatic fashion here by defeating Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro 3-6, 7-6, 19-17 in an epic 4 hour 26 minute encounter, the longest Olympic tennis match in history.
The historic All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club is renowned for the its strict all-white dress code and reserved, upper-class spectators during Wimbledon.
But the Olympics has radically transformed the venue into a hub of colour, noise and energy with Federer (pictured above) and Del Potro producing an extended display of pure brilliance to perfectly compliment the electric atmosphere here.
Federer, who is in search of his first Olympic singles gold medal to complete the Golden Slam, looked like a man on a mission as he came out in the red of his nation but it was the man in the blue of Argentina who drew first blood as Del Potro took the first set 6-3 following some phenomenal serving.
The Swiss rallied in a tight second set and accompanied by the defending support of the majority of the crowd, the seven-time Wimbledon champion scraped through 7-5 in a tie-break.
However, it was in the third and final set that the contest truly caught alight as both players refused to yield on serve.
After what felt like an eternity, Federer appeared to have one foot in the final as he broke to lead 10-9 – only for the gutsy Argentinean to break back to love immediately and send shockwaves through the crowd.
The torture continued until, finally, Federer broke again for an 18-17 lead when Del Potro slapped a backhand into the net.
Asked to serve for the match for a second time, the 30-year-old Swiss made no mistake, even if he did need two match points, mercifully taking the win when Del Potro netted another backhand.
Federer raised his hands into the air in triumph as Centre Court erupted before leaning onto the net – a picture of exhaustion, joy and relief.
He then embraced with a tearful Del Potro, who still has a shot at the bronze medal, before the pair walked off together to a well-earned standing ovation.
The longest Olympic match ever surpasses the record set by France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Canada's Milos Raonic of three hours and 56 minutes earlier this week, while it guarantees Federer his first Olympic singles medal ever.
"It was very tough from start to finish," said a smiling Federer following the win.
"Juan Martin did so well to hang in there.
"I got lucky in the second set to get back and then in the third it was so tough.
"I don't think I have ever played as long a set in a best of three-set match and it was over four and a half hours, so it was very physical at the end and so mental.
"Obviously I feel bad and horrible for Juan Martin but he can be very proud."
Federer, who won Olympic gold in the doubles at Beijing 2008, now faces a tough ask to recover for a best of five-set final against Murray in what should be an enthralling repeat of the Wimbledon final last month which Federer won in four sets.
Murray produced one of the best performances of his career to record a straight sets 7-5, 7-5 win over Serbia's world number two Novak Djokovic.
With a deafening partisan British crowd behind the Scot helping rock the old Centre Court to its foundations, Murray continually produced blistering ground stokes from the start that had his opponent momentarily rattled.
However, Djokovic slowly began to show the form that bought him five major titles and soon engaged the Team GB star in some breath-taking rallies that continually saw the crowd rise to their feet.
But it was Murray who held his nerve at the crucial moments and a break at the end of the first set and again in the second saw him claim a brilliant straight sets win as Serb netted an attempted volley.
An emotional Murray was reduced to tears of joy amongst the wild celebrations and he now has the chance at ultimate redemption from his Wimbledon defeat from last month when he meets Federer in a game which, like their last match, will be a best of five-set encounter.
The win over Djokovic already means Murray has guaranteed himself a silver medal which will be Britain's first tennis medal since Atlanta 1996 when Tim Henman and Neil Broad took silver in the men's doubles competition.
However, the 25-year-old will only be thinking of gold and a win would give him Britain's first singles gold medal since the Stockholm 1912 Olympic Games when Edith Hannam claimed the women's title.
July 2012: I hope Wawrinka beats Murray at London 2012, says Federer
June 2012: Olympics made me a "changed man", says Federer
May 2010: London 2012 is not the end for me claims Federer
September 2009: Tom Degun - Federer is already the best, now he can concentrate on Olympic gold
June 2009: Rogge urges Federer to carry on until London 2012