Andy Murray labels Tokyo Olympics most important ever as he bids to defend crown

Sir Andy Murray says Tokyo 2020 will be the most important Olympics ever – for leading sport out of the pandemic catastrophe.

The two-time men's singles champion, defending the titles he won at London 2012 and in Rio five years ago, believes the Games will offer a “beacon of hope” around the world.

And Murray, at 34 competing in his fourth Olympic tennis tournament, insists Tokyo will help people “reconnect to the raw emotion of sport.”

Despite widespread opposition here to the Games going ahead amid the Covid-19 crisis and a state of emergency, the double Wimbledon champion will chase another medal in the stifling 95-degree heat behind closed doors.

Murray said: “The Olympics mean a huge amount to me. Leading Team GB at the opening ceremony in Rio was one of the highlights of my career and winning in 2012 on home ground was an incredible moment.

“Going to a second Olympics as defending champion is exciting and I am looking forward to the challenge. The Games are the biggest competition in the world and, as athletes, we train hard for moments like this.

“Tokyo 2020 is unique, falling during the pandemic and we have seen incredible resilience from athletes, fans and all those involved in making this happen.

“Overcoming barriers and difficulties is what defines competing at this level, the ups and the downs.

“In so many ways, right now it’s more important than ever that people around the world get to reconnect to the raw emotion of sport, watch incredible performances and celebrate the achievement of athletes coming from around the world.

“For those still experiencing the worst of the pandemic and others that have lost so much over the last year, this Games can be a beacon of hope.”

World No.1 Novak Djokovic, bidding for a 'Golden Slam' of every major title and Olympic gold, is hot favourite to take Murray's crown in Tokyo.

But multiple withdrawals, including Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer, have cleared a path for Muzza to make the podium, and he said: “On a personal level, my goal is to try and win a medal – ideally a gold one for my country.

“It’s no secret how much the fans' support means to me and I have great sympathy for the crowds who won’t be able to be there in person.

“Exposure to sport at the highest level brings benefits we can’t begin to quantify: It supports mental health, it encourages increased physical activity, it exposes us to other cultures and peoples, it brings us together.

“In times of difficulty, sport isn’t just necessary, it is vital. Excellence, respect and friendship and valuing the small wins in everyday life as well as the big ones became more important than ever over the last 18 months.

“An incredible amount of work has gone into ensuring the safety of everyone involved with the Games. It’s going to be amazing to be playing in Tokyo and my own experiences are why I think the Games have never been more relevant.”

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