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Azarenka and Mirnyi sneak past Murray and Robson for mixed gold

Victoria Azarenka in Olympic action
by Alexandra Willis
Sunday 5 August 2012

For quite a moment, it looked like it was going to be double gold for Andy Murray on Centre Court. The British No.1, newly invested as the Olympic champion after an astonishing straight sets defeat of Roger Federer, his first in a major final, joined up with Laura Robson to take on Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, the top seeds. 

Riding on the wave of British enthusiasm, the Centre Court crowd as racuous as they had been throughout the singles final, the British duo broke Mirnyi's serve to start, Murray held to love, and then broke Azarenka for a 3-0 lead. Robson duly held serve, and although the Belarusians won their next two service games, the Brits served out a 6-2 first set. 

But Mirnyi and Azarenka, who won the Australian Open mixed doubles together a few years ago, would not be diminished so easily. Breaking the Robson serve to lead 3-1 in the second, the top seeds held on to their advantage, and Mirnyi, dubbed the Beast of Belarus, served out 6-3 to send the gold medal match into a champions' tie-break decider. 

Robson and Murray, and their supporters, had suffered the agony and ecstasy of winning three champions' tie-breaks to reach the final, against Lucie Hradecka and Radek Stepanek, Sam Stosur and Lleyton Hewitt, and Sabine Lisicki and Christopher Kas, and so had pedigree in coming from behind. 

They were forced to do so again, trailing Azarenka and Mirnyi 3-5, they recovered to 5-5 and then 6-6. But as Murray served at 6-6, Mirnyi belted a return at Laura, and the top seeds had the mini-break they needed. Winning the next two points, with three match points at 9-6, it looked like there would be no coming back for the British pair, but they saved one and then another match point. 

The third though, proved too much, Mirnyi thumping down a serve, Murray belting the return, only for Azarenka to put away the smash. 

Winning the final 2-6, 6-3, 10-8, by as narrow a margin as a dip for the 100m line, it was Belarus's second gold medal, and their first in the history of the Olympic tennis event. 

“The feeling I had yesterday on the court, just also winning a bronze, it was absolutely amazing,” said Azarenka, who also picked up bronze in the singles. “It's been a dream come true for me to achieve gold because I think every athlete in the world is dreaming about this prize to get. You don't get so many chances.

“We just tried to focus and tried to get one of the chances because they were playing absolutely amazing,” added the world No. 1. “We just tried to stay and fight as much as we could. Once we had the chance, we were just really focused on that.”

But although there was disappointment that Robson and Murray couldn't claim gold, to win silver as a wild card pair was surely beyond expectation at the start of the week. For Robson, she became the youngest tennis medallist at the Olympics since Jennifer Capriati in 1992. 

"We were so close to the gold medal. So for the moment I'm just a bit disappointed, but it's been a really, really good week," Robson said. "Just to be playing in the Olympics, I was really happy with that. At the start of last week, I just thought I was playing doubles. So to be a silver medalist is pretty cool. I'm looking forward to seeing my medal."

The London 2012 Olympic tennis is taking place at Wimbledon. Visit the ITF Olympics site for full scores, draws and the London 2012 site for video content, venue and schedule information.

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