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By Chris Oddo

Murray Gold Medal (August 7, 2012) --Andy Murray's chances of becoming the next male player to win a maiden Grand Slam have risen with his electrifying gold medal run at the 2012 Olympic Games, but by just how much remains to be seen.

To assume that Murray will respond to this soul-quenching victory the same way that Novak Djokovic responded to guiding Serbia to its first ever Davis Cup title in 2010 (the scintillating Serb went undefeated for half a season and won four out of the next five Grand Slams) would be like assuming Fernando Verdasco will never lose to Rafael Nadal again on clay, just because he beat him on the blue clay in Madrid this spring.

In other words, a Slam may be in the cards for Murray, but it's not a guarantee.

But one thing about Murray that is guaranteed? His talent. And that talent appears to be more lethal than ever now that recently hired coach Ivan Lendl has helped the Scotsman become more aggressive from the baseline and on serve, and also helped him deal with the pressure that comes with coming up short in his first four Grand Slam finals (it happened to Lendl too, and he went on to win eight Slams).

Add to that talent the confidence that Murray should draw from an experience like winning the gold medal, and now we are talking about the potential for a world-class--dare I say Djokovician?--breakthrough. After routing the field in what Murray himself called "the best week of my tennis career by a mile," he can add the peace of mind that will undoubtedly come from the experience to his already elite--and still blossoming-- game.

Now that Murray has shellacked Roger Federer in a best-of-five-set final that had huge implications for Federer (a win would have given the 17-time Grand Slam champion the career Golden Slam), is it safe to say that Murray will never again sabotage his own best intentions in a big match by being too passive, too nervous or too lacking in belief?  

And what will come of Murray when he returns to the “normal” tour, away from all the heightened emotions of playing in the Olympic Games, where he admittedly was inspired by a patriotic fervor and all the amazing feats of athleticism occurring around London?

Hopefully Murray, who has clearly had difficulties calming his nerves in his four previous Grand Slam finals, will approach his next one with the same reckless abandon and swagger that he approached this Olympic final with.

"I think just a combination of learning from all those defeats," said Murray after dismissing Federer 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday. "The Wimbledon final especially, will have gone into today's match. I hope this experience will make me a better player as well."

Juan Martin del Potro is another player who stands to benefit from an emotionally charged Olympic experience. The big, lion-hearted man from Tandil, Argentina is already the only man besides Federer, Nadal and Djokovic to have actually broken through to notch a Grand Slam title since 2005. Last week he put forth an inspired effort at the Games, nearly upsetting Federer in a marathon semifinal, then blasting past Djokovic to earn the bronze medal.

Del Potro, who famously declared "I think I'm the most happy of the world at this moment," after his 7-5, 6-4 victory over the Serb, will no doubt draw upon this memory next year when he returns to Wimbledon to attempt another Grand Slam coup.

With his recent rise in grass-court form, Del Potro, 23, has proven that he can be a viable threat to go deep in a Slam on any surface. But Del Potro’s belief will be tested too, when he gets back to the tour and away from all the amped-up emotions of the Olympic experience.

As far as Federer’s future goes, it's doubtful that we need to sound the alarm just yet. When it comes to confidence a.k.a belief, that oh-so-precious commodity that both Murray and Del Potro are pining after, Federer has always had the market cornered. From Federer’s perspective (he sits atop the throne, wearing a crown labeled GOAT) it's absurd to read too much into one loss, and judging from Federer's reaction to it, it's unlikely that he will.

Have you ever seen a player be more happy for his opponent's success than Federer was after getting drubbed on Sunday? Federer seemed pleased as punch that Andy Murray had played such divine tennis against him, saying "I was happy for him, that he was able to bring such a performance and bring home the gold for Great Britain. It's a long time coming for him. Yeah, he did great."

Does that sound like a man that is at all concerned about what the future holds?

Not particularly, and it’s probably because Federer has been around long enough to know that these things happen. Sunday was Murray’s day in the sun, and since that was the case, Federer was more than happy to prop him up even further in the aftermath.

Was Federer just being nice or does he have a genuine interest in seeing Murray show up to the US Open so high on life that he has nowhere to go but down?

Whatever the future holds, Federer, Murray and Del Potro all promise to be a huge part of the equation at the US Open this summer.

As the saying goes, life is not about what happens to you, but how you react to what happens to you.

The same thing can be said about tennis, and we'll get to see who has truly benefitted from the Olympic effect in less than a month.

Stay tuned.

(Photo Credit: Getty)


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