The 2012 Olympics were of course, an unbridled success – both for the home nation’s reputation and morale but also for sport and its power to unite.
However, for some there is still a bitter taste. The leagues of empty seats that plagued that first week in almost every discipline did much to highlight both the error of having a single ticket provider (who’s distribution methods left a lot to be desired) and the corporate chumminess of the whole charade. Perhaps it was due to the UK masses having had their fortnightly fill of Murraymania for another year thus assuming tennis hibernates for 50 weeks, but it was at SW19 where the vacant seats were most obvious. How it hurt to see this ‘sold out’ event so sparsely attended throughout, despite mouth-watering matchups right from the openers. Round three in both men’s and women’s singles competitions producing almost exclusively top twenty players past and present. Yet Centre Court remained nowhere near full capacity until the medals matches.
Anyway, rant over.
The medallists in both singles competitions fully deserved their accolades, Serena Williams made an absolute mockery of the women’s game (although this looks to have been unique to that Olympic week) by demolishing each opponent unfortunate enough to face her power poise and nigh on perfection. Three former World Number One’s in Jankovic, Wozniacki and Sharapova, the current top dog Azarenka, plus regular top tenner Zvonareva and on-form Ursula Radwanska all fell to the tune of just 16 games – and not one set- lost. Wimbledon momentum? No doubt but this was a likely victory delivered in an emphatic manner that no-one would have safely bet on.
Sharapova and Azarenka duly collected Silver and Bronze respectively, which – in the light of Williams’ run probably felt like Gold’s anyway. They’ll be back in Rio for sure.
Likewise Wimbledon momentum played its part in Roger Federer’s progress throughout the tournament – there was some rust early on – Alejandro Falla proving once again to be more than a tricky customer. Where the Swiss lost any chance of that coveted singles gold was not against the impeccable Murray on Sunday, but in the draining, frustrating and inspiring encounter with the slowly-coming-back-kid Juan Martin Del Potro who continues to produce his most devastating form against Federer. The Argentine’s forehand was relentless in its awesome power, it wasn’t quite a Rosol-Nadal moment but it did remind me of that fateful night in June.
Federer may have prevailed eventually, after squandering a break of serve to love but his game and energy levels were lacking come the final. I wager however, that playing as he was Murray would have prevailed anyway, his confidence and form from that Wimbledon fortnight coursed through his veins. After steady if not serene progress to the final it was clear Murray stepped things up for the Gold-medal match. He had an answer for everything Federer threw at him and rarely gave his opponent any chance to find his groove.
Novak Djokovic’s ever-so-slight dip in form was evident here too, a below par semi-final performance with Murray was then confounded further with defeat to Del-Potro for bronze.
A special mention for Daniela Hantuchova here – after injury has kept her away from tournaments including Roland Garros and indeed these blog pages it was good to see some flashes of form. A gutsy win against Li Na and then a comprehensive victory over Alize Cornet gave me some hope. But it was the usual inexplicable loss to Wozniacki in full defensive mode that was to follow in that star-studded third round. Shame, but nice to see the Slovak’s winning smile before the inevitable retirement.
Next up…a tournament recap and US Open Series round-up before the last Slam starts in a week or so.
A good Olympics for…
Juan Martin Del Potro
A bad Olympics for…