On Sunday, the gold medal match will be contested by defending Olympic champion Murray and Del Potro, a bronze medalist in his own right.
The returning Argentinian came through a classic match against Rafael Nadal, beating him in a match lasting over 3 hours. Del Potro put together some of the best tennis he’s produced since returning to the tour from a niggling wrist injury that has kept him off the tour for the best part of two years.
One major question going into the semi-final with Nadal, was whether his backhand could hold up in a match against a Top 5 player – it is easy to forget that it has been a long time since Del Potro played regularly against Top 5 opposition.
Murray experienced a much more comfortable and secure match win over Kei Nishikori in his respective semi-final. He extended the head-to-head to 7-1 against the Japanese star and looked in imperious form in comparison to his previous three set bout with Steve Johnson.
A talking point coming into the gold medal match will be whether Murray can contain and absorb the pace of the Del Potro forehand. The World No.1 Novak Djokovic, one of the games greatest defenders, struggled continuously to handle the barrage of forehands coming from the opposite side of the net.
Murray has to treat his opponent in the same way he would tackle a match against Del Potro in 2013, as Del Potro is starting to replicate the match wins that took him to his only major title win at the US Open in 2009.
Murray should be looking to turn this into a physical exchange between the two. A positive sign for Del Potro is that he is hitting over his backhand, which he was not doing in the early stages of his return to the tour. With that being said, the backhand of Del Potro’s is not a major weapon like his forehand and Murray will try his utmost to expose that considerable chink in the Argentinians armour.
I think the introduction of a Best of Five format in the Olympic gold medal match really favours the defending Olympic Champion Murray. Many would argue that you are more likely to see a major or minor upset in a Best of Three men’s match in comparison. A Best of Five sets match gives the top players additional room to manoeuvre and allows them to work their way into a match.
Del Potro has only played three matches in that format in the last 19 months. Del Potro mentioned his physical exhaustion after losing a tough four set match to Lucas Pouille in the third round of this year’s Wimbledon. Is Del Potro ready for one of the toughest Best of Five opponents on the tour right now?
Murray has won 35 of his last 38 matches, which includes a 17 match winning streak dating back to the Roland Garros final. He is truly playing some of the best tennis of his career when you consider that he has made three grand slam finals in a row now.
Murray’s speciality in defending and retrieving ball after ball will be tested in this match, but Murray should find a way to win his second Olympic singles gold of his career.
Prediction: Murray in four sets.
Kei Nishikori  vs Rafael Nadal  H2H: Nadal leads 9-1
The bronze medal match features Nishikori and 2008 Olympic singles champion Nadal. Nadal dominates the previous history between these two players as he comfortably holds a 9-1 head-to-head.
Nishikori’s previous performances against Nadal have fallen short over the years but he will feel buoyed by his impressive win over the Spaniard in the Canada Masters last year. Nishikori also led by a set and a break in the Madrid Masters final, where he displayed some of his best brand of tennis, as he took the racquet out of Nadal’s hands. Nishikori would eventually go on to lose that final due to injury and retired in the 3rd set – a recurring theme to Nishikori’s career.
Expect Nadal to be thoroughly ruthless in this match and continue to inflict his dominance on this particular match up. A good sign for Nishikori is that it is only Best of Three, but if his semi-final was anything to go by – he looked mentally exhausted against Murray in his last match.
Prediction: Nadal in two sets.
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