The history of the Olympic Games is full of dramatic, emotional and beautiful moments that took place in finals. Every week, relive the most incredible finals you can remember on video. This week, we look at the Rio 2016 men's tennis final.
- Men's tennis final, Rio 2016 Olympic Games
- Olympic Tennis Centre, Rio de Janeiro 14 August 2016
The Rio 2016 Olympic tennis tournament began in ominous fashion for Juan Martin del Potro. Hours before his first round matchup against world no.1 Novak Djokovic, the 6-foot 6-inch Argentine was trapped in an Olympic Village elevator for 40 minutes, before eventually being rescued by his country’s handball team.
And yet from that moment onwards, the elevator only seemed to go upwards for del Potro.
In an astonishing run to the final, the player ranked 141 in the world despatched of Djokovic 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-2) before going on to beat another giant of the game in the semi-final, Spain’s Beijing 2008 gold medallist Rafael Nadal (5-7 6-4 7-6).
Standing on the opposite side of the court in the final was Andy Murray, a hot favourite heading into the gold medal match. Murray was the reigning Olympic champion, having triumphed in his home Games at London 2012, and five weeks before the Rio Olympic final he had won the Wimbledon title for the second time in his career.
Could Murray become the first man in history to retain his Olympic title, or would del Potro take one more giant scalp on his way to securing a historic gold medal?
The final was a fascinating ding-dong affair that included a total of 14 breaks of serve. And while there may not have been a key moment that swayed the match one way or the other, the deciding factor may have been a very human one.
Both men expended a huge amount of energy throughout the tournament, but it was Murray who managed to lift his levels just enough in the moments that mattered to win the gold medal with a 7-5 4-6 6-2 7-5 victory.
As he finally disposed of del Potro’s challenge after four gruelling hours, the usually stoic Scot broke down in floods of tears. It had been a mentally and physically punishing experience for both men:
“It was probably one of the hardest matches I have had to play to win a big final,” said the Team GB athlete. “This was tough emotionally and physically, there were lots of ups and downs. This was much harder to win than London four years ago.”
Argentina’s del Potro was equally exhausted by the end of the match, saying: "I left the last of my toenails on the court. I was tremendously tired. It was the crowd that made me keep running."
The finals Andy Murray won at Wimbledon and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games proved to be the high points of his career. Since that time the Scot, who has been dogged by injury, has not won another Grand Slam. Perhaps it was foresight when he commented after his historic Olympic victory in Rio: "Four years is a long time and so many things can change. Who knows about Tokyo? At 33, I'm not sure I'll be at the same level."
Juan Martin del Potro continued his impressive return from injuries in 2017, reaching the semi-final of the US Open. His comeback continued in 2018 as he secured a ranking of no.3 in the world and a place in the final of the US Open. Unfortunately for "Delpo", he was defeated by Novak Djokovic (6–3, 7–6, 6–3) as the Serb exacted revenge for his Rio 2016 defeat.
Since then, the Argentine's career has continued to be plagued by injuries and both men remain outsiders for a place at Tokyo 2020.
Will there be one last hurrah from either of the two when Olympic action resumes in 2021?
An inspiring battle between Juan Martin del Potro and defending gold medallist Andy Murray for the Rio Games tennis gold medal.