LONDON – Britain’s Andy Murray set up an Olympic revenge mission against Roger Federer as the world number four booked his place in the final with a 7-5, 7-5 semi-final victory over Novak Djokovic on Friday.
Murray produced a masterful display to beat world number two Djokovic in two hours on Centre Court and the Scot is now guaranteed at least a silver medal as he heads into his first Olympic final on Sunday.
It promises to be an emotional occasion for the 25-year-old, who won the British public’s hearts after crying on court following his loss to Federer in the Wimbledon final less than a month ago.
Murray was tearful again after his win over Djokovic, but this time the waterworks were prompted by joy rather than sorrow.
“I know how much winning tonight meant to me. It was one of the biggest matches of my career, one of the biggest wins of my career,” Murray said.
“It was one of the most emotional I’ve been after a match. I’m so happy to win. You don’t see me smiling that much normally. I haven’t stopped smiling since I came off the court.
“I played really well in the first set and hung tough in the second. The atmosphere was unbelievable. We always said night matches at the US Open had the best atmosphere, but it’s not even close to what it was today.”
Djokovic added: “He played better in the important moments and served extremely well. The crowd gave him positive energy and he used that in his favour.
“Practically every service game in the second set I had a chance to break, so it’s a disappointing loss. But he deserves to be in the final.”
For Murray, defeat in a Grand Slam final has often been the trigger for a calamitous run of results in the past, but the Scot has shown new-found maturity in coping with the heartbreak of losing his maiden Wimbledon final.
Murray had lost eight of his 13 meetings with Djokovic, including a five-set classic in the Australian Open semi-finals in January, but there was no sign of any inferiority complex as the British number one earned two break points early in the first set.
Even though Djokovic snuffed out the danger on that occasion with a pair of powerful winners, Murray refused to lose faith.
He kept probing away and the pressure finally paid off as former Wimbledon champion Djokovic tried to take the set to a tie-break.
On set point, Murray produced the shot of the match as he unfurled a scintilating forehand winner that triggered a huge roar and a burst of Union Jack flag waving from the vociferous British crowd.
It had taken 55 minutes to win that set, but there was no time for Murray to catch his breath at the start of the second as he battled to save a break point in the opening game.
When Djokovic earned another break point in the third game, Murray’s response was majestic. He produced a perfect drop-shot to level at deuce and then slammed down two unreturnable serves to complete the escape.
Djokovic was mounting a strong fightback and Murray had to save break points at 4-4 and 5-5.
But the Scot was playing with such composure that the result seemed somehow inevitabe as Djokovic faltered on his own serve at 5-6.
Murray scented blood and on match point he produced a blistering return that prove too much for Djokovic to handle before the Scot let the tears flow again.