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3RD LEAD Murray retains Olympic gold after marathon match against Del Potro By Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl, dpa

Europe
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Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - Andy Murray beat Juan Martin del Potro in the tennis men‘s singles final 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 on Sunday to become the first player to win two Olympic gold medals in the event.

World number two Murray defeated Del Potro in an epic 4-hour-long match in Rio de Janeiro, in front of a crowd of raucous fans.

The British Wimbledon champion ended a fairytale run at the Olympics for Argentina‘s Del Potro, the 2009 US Open winner. After several wrist operations Del Potro is ranked 141st in the world, but bounced back in Rio to beat number one Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Spanish great Rafael Nadal en route to the final.

Murray had already taken gold in the men‘s singles event at the London Olympics four years ago.

The two men were relatively evenly matched at the start of the clash, with the scrappier Del Potro capitalizing on the more polished Murray‘s mistakes.

Del Potro faded out in the third set, showing signs of tiredness and thigh pain. He then pulled himself back up in the fourth and put up a fight until the end, but having missed a chance to serve out the set, lost the test of endurance.

At the end of the match, the two men gave each other a long hug over the net, with Murray patting Del Potro on the back, before both collapsing into their chairs. Del Potro could be seen wiping away tears.

Argentina fans had made up a big part of the crowd in the Rio stadium and accompanied Del Potro throughout the match with cheers, chanting and boos for his opponent. One spectator was heard crying out "Papa Francesco" during the match, seemingly invoking godly help from the Argentina-born pope.

Officials repeatedly hushed the crowd to get them to be silent during play and one unruly Argentina fan was escorted out by military officers towards the end of the match.

The marathon match had been preceded by a new list of Rio tennis upsets earlier in the day, with Venus Williams missing her last chance at a gold medal in the mixed doubles and Nadal not managing to take bronze in the men‘s singles tournament.

Swiss tennis veteran Martina Hingis, meanwhile, secured her first Olympic medal after two decades in the sport, but had to settle for silver after a women‘s doubles loss to Russia.

It was the second Olympics for Hingis, two decades after she first played in the Atlanta Games at the age of 15.

"I‘m very proud of what we achieved this week," the now 35-year-old said. "Being able to play for gold, it‘s unbelievable."

In the all-American mixed doubles final, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jack Sock won 6-7 (3-7), 6-1, 10-7 against Williams and her partner Rajeev Ram, who took silver.

Williams had crashed out of the women‘s singles and women‘s doubles earlier at the Rio Games. Her sister Serena made it nowhere near the medals podium.

But the silver mixed doubles medal allowed the elder Williams sister to match the five-medal Olympic record in tennis, held by Britain‘s Kitty McKane.

"It‘s surreal that I even came out with any hardware at all, it‘s so well contested here, every single one," Williams said. "It‘s been an amazing experience, five Olympics for me."

World number five Nadal, meanwhile, was beaten by Japan‘s Kei Nishikori in the men‘s singles match for bronze. Nishikori, who is ranked seventh in the world, won the nearly three-hour-long match in Rio de Janeiro 6-2, 6-7 (1-7), 6-3.

"I didn‘t play with the right energy during the whole match. I was too tired," Nadal said afterwards.

The Spanish player had won gold in the men‘s singles at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and had aimed in Brazil to become the first male tennis player to win two gold medals in the event, the honour that eventually went to Murray.

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