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Mon 15 Aug 2016 09:11 AM

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Golden Murray carves his place with the greats

29-year-old Scot claimed a status unmatched by any of those peers with whom he is often less than favourably compared

Golden Murray carves his place with the greats
Andy Murray of Great Britain reacts during the mens singles gold medal match against Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina on Day 9 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Tennis Centre on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

For Andy
Murray, there have been highs. Then there was this.

On a small,
green patch of scorched acrylic some 9,000 kilometres from home, the Scot
achieved a unique Olympic feat, converting heart and guts and sweat into Rio
gold.

With
victory over Juan-Martin del Potro, the 29-year-old claimed a status unmatched
by any of those peers with whom he is often less than favourably compared - two
Olympics singles crowns.

Forget the
five Australian Open runners-up finishes and the French Open final defeat. Forget
that his three grand slam titles is 14 shy of Roger Federer's record haul, or
11 short of Pete Sampras and Rafa Nadal.

No matter
that among the 'Big Four' Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Murray, the Scot
is the only one not to have completed the full collection of grand slam crowns.

Now he has
eclipsed them, though the man himself would never be so immodest.

"I
don't think I would say that," he smiled.

But still,
no other tennis player, man or woman, has defended an Olympic singles crown.
And now Murray has two Olympic golds.

He did it
with a typically dynamic display of baseline tennis seasoned with smart forays
to the net, pinpoint serving when it mattered, and ironman fitness.

Fitting
giant

Del Potro,
conqueror of both Djokovic and Nadal here, at 6ft 6ins (1.98m) was somehow a
fitting giant to fell. The Argentine put up a valiant fight before going down
7-5 4-6 6-2 7-5.

It was not
always pretty, played out in front of a noisy, chanting Latin crowd, in a
sometimes soccer stadium atmosphere, but it was a compelling spectacle in
which, from one perspective, Murray elevated himself above his illustrious
peers and predecessors.

Little
wonder he clutched his head in the centre of the court and fought back tears
when he finally clinched victory after a four-hour-two-minute battle.

Burying his
head in his towel, Murray shook with emotion as the Olympic podium was hastily
assembled, and dozens of photographers swarmed the net like camera-wielding
hornets jostling for place.

The crowd
roared 'ole ole ole' as Murray walked to the side of the court to greet fans,
many of whom were clad in Argentine soccer shirts and had been screaming
against him all evening.

Now though,
they hailed him, leaping high to catch soaking sweatbands thrown by the player,
and lifting iPads, phones and other tablets to capture the moment digitally.
Something for Facebook, and Twitter and to prove to friends and family that
they had been there.

"Tonight
was one of the hardest matches I have played," Murray said in the bowels
of the tennis stadium, a British flag draped round his shoulders.

"I
know the fact it has not been done before means it is very hard to do, and I am
very, very proud to be the first one to have done it.

"Four
years is a long time, a lot can happen. I had back surgery between London and
now... I've gone through some tough times on court."

Sunday
night in Rio was undoubtedly one of his greatest times.

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