Great Britain won 47 medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, an impressive haul that exceeded the target of 35 set by UK Sport. But performing at home at London 2012 will mean the pressure is on to better that performance. This is the first in a series of posts asking the question: where is Britain's 48th medal going to come from?
We might have hoped that the introduction of new sports would come to Britain's aid. Golf and rugby sevens were both being considered for London 2012, but won't be included until Rio 2016 at the earliest. Perhaps by that time we will have managed to get snooker and darts into the Games, too - that should help. In fact let's see if we can go the whole way - we have a summer Olympics, a winter Olympics and a Paralympics, surely it's time for the pub Olympics? We'd be world-beaters.
For 2012, however, we'll have to rely on non-pub sports, among them tennis. Now, you should be prepared for a sense of déjà vu when watching Olympics tennis this summer. That's because the competition is being staged at the All-England club, meaning we'll essentially be watching two Wimbledons this summer. Round one of the Olympic tennis begins just 20 days after Wimbledon finishes.
Then again, I experience déjà vu during Wimbledon every year, as the same commentators describe how the same British player is yet again being knocked out at the same stage of the competition with the same celebrities watching from the stands.
Yes, as ever, our hopes for medal 48 will rest on the shoulders of Andy Murray. No other British player - male or female - has a ranking high enough to suggest they'll be in medal contention. (Rumours that Tim Henman is considering coming out of retirement for the men's singles are entirely fictitious. Although I do hear he might enter the mixed doubles with Virginia Wade.)
Murray had a hugely disappointing Beijing 2008, going out in the first round of the singles. Since then, however, Murray's game has flourished, and he is expected to reach the final stages of every tournament he enters. Medal 48 is within his reach.
The only problem is, gold, silver and bronze only adds up to three medals, and Murray is most definitely the world's fourth best player. He has won 22 tournaments in his career and beaten all of the world's best players, but in 12 attempts has only once defeated a member of the Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic triumvirate in a Grand Slam (Nadal at the US Open in 2008). If he meets one of them again before the final, our grip on medal 48 will start to slip.
The doubles competition is another route to a tennis medal. Murray may play alongside older brother Jamie, who unlike his sibling does have a Grand Slam title to his name: he won the Wimbledon mixed doubles in 2007 with Jelena Janković. However the Murrays only reached the second round when they played together at Beijing 2008, and doubles specialist Jamie hasn't been back to a Grand Slam final since the US Open that same year.
Murray Jr is also rumoured to be contemplating partnering Laura Robson in the mixed doubles at London 2012, in what could turn out to be a very busy tournament for Britain's number one. Robson won the Wimbledon Girls event in 2008, and has partnered Murray successfully before in the 2010 Hopman Cup.
Whatever the competition, therefore, Britain's medal hopes in 2012 Olympic tennis are certain to be determined by Andy Murray. More precisely, by Andy Murray's motivation. While he will want to win an Olympic medal, Murray will know that even gold is no substitute for the Grand Slam win that still eludes him.
To win Olympic gold at Wimbledon might even seem a cruel twist of fate for Murray. He might find himself consigned him to a place in history as the last British player to win a Wimbledon who didn't really win Wimbledon. If medal 48 is going to be achieved, however - let alone medals 49 and 50 - he's going to have to take that risk.
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