© Ella Ling

Laura Robson

Olympic diary: Mixed doubles takes centre stage

   

Putting mixed doubles back in the Olympic tennis for the first time since 1924 was a brave decision. A 16-team draw, with two sets and a match tie-break, it has very much been the afterthought of this event, no matter how much hype there has been about who might pair up with who.

But the boy and girl discipline has caught fire with the progress of Andy Murray and Laura Robson to the final, guaranteeing the British duo a gold or silver medal. Robson, who turned 18 in January, will become the youngest tennis medallist since Jennifer Capriati 20 years ago, while Murray will have the chance to shoot for double gold, gold and silver, or double silver, in back to back matches on Centre Court.

Robson and Murray first took on Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Stosur, with Hewitt scampering around like he was 10 years younger in his quest to win an Olympic medal. It looked like the Brits were down and out when the trailed in the champions’ tie-break, but they gritted in in very Murray-esque fashion. Their semi-final was very similar, but this time it was the woman who was the driving force, Sabine Lisicki, playing with Christopher Kas for Germany. Again, it came down to the champions’ tie-break, and again, Murray and Robson found the clutch control necessary.

“For me both matches are very important on Sunday,” Murray said.  “I’d love to win two golds.  I’d obviously prefer one gold than two silvers. It’s very different preparation than what I’m used to but that’s the beauty of this competition. You never really see singles players playing mixed much at the slams.  Yeah, I’m sure Sunday will be a great day.  Hope I play well.”

Mixed as a discipline has changed over the years, something which Murray pointed out.“I think it’s something that maybe has changed a little bit over the last five or six years,” he explained. “I know when I first played mixed doubles, it still felt a little bit like that [to be a little gentler to the female players].

“I think with the girls getting bigger and stronger, hitting the ball harder, they’ll take your head off if they’ve got the chance, as well. I think you need to play the way to win the points.  You’re not ever trying to hit a player. Lisicki today hit a lot of returns off Laura’s serve straight at me and it is very hard to react.  It’s sometimes a hard shot to play. But yeah, you never want to hit anyone, but it happens in doubles.”

Given that Robson hit him in the back of the head at one point on Saturday afternoon, I’m sure Murray would have no qualms about doing what is necessary now that gold is on the line.

Serena Williams showed she was thinking of sister Venus by doing a sort of jig on Centre Court after winning the women’s singles title to equal Venus’s tally of three gold medals.

The Centre Court crowd had reason to titter when the presentation of the flags during the women’s singles medal ceremony didn’t quite go to plan. A gust of wind decided to give the Stars and Stripes an outing, it flapping around in the wind for a bit, before going for a wander.