Andy Murray is used to carrying the burden of national expectation, from Melbourne Park to Flushing Meadow and all stops in between.
Perhaps that’s why he loves the Olympics so much, the chance to be just one of the team, rather than the team.
Nine days after he carried the flag at the opening ceremony, he wrapped himself in the flag, after becoming the first man to defend an Olympic men’s singles title in a sizzling final with Juan Martin Del Potro.
There are many who think tennis should not be at the Games, arguing that it’s not the pinnacle of the sport. Try telling that to Murray, who put his face in his towel and wept after securing his victory in a four hour match that crackled with tension.
“It’s been an emotional few days and I think that just all came out at the end,” he admitted.
“To carry the flag and win the gold means this has been an amazing few days of my career but also the doubles loss with Jamie was really hard. I was very down and upset after being on a high from the closing ceremony. Emotionally, it’s been difficult but I’ve enjoyed the experience.”
Murray, of course, loves teams. There are no top players who, just days after winning a Grand Slam, would fly to Serbia to cheer for their Davis Cup team-mates in a match they weren’t in.
In Beijing he embraced the Olympic experience and paid the price, losing in the first round. Four years ago in London, he used his traditional Wimbledon game plan, staying at home and detaching himself from all distractions.
At times in Rio it appeared he’d strayed from that winning formula, as he gave his time freely to teammates, who all wanted a picture or the chance to grab a seat near him at breakfast.
“Being part of this huge team, over 300 athletes, is the greatest thing about the Olympics, that’s why it means so much to me,” he added.
“I’ve loved staying in the village and spending time around the team and feeling part of something bigger than just your sport.
“I saw Justin Rose win the golf before I came on court and I’d seen Max Whitlock, who I’ve spoken to in the village a few times, win his gold before I left the village. They both inspired me and I don’t have that feeling on the tour or in a Grand Slam.
“The gymnasts amaze me with what they can do with their bodies and I’ve been speaking with Max a bit about his training schedule, which is incredible. I’ve worked hard for this, I never expected to be competing for these events when I first started playing on the tour and I’m very proud. ”
Brazilian organisers have done their best not to embrace the traditions for which their country is known, fearing that, perhaps, too much Samba would play to stereotypes.
But this corner of Rio was turned into Buenos Aires by a noisy enclave of Argentines, a rare capacity crowd creating a cacophony of noise and their own carnival spirit.
This was a more like a football match, with home and away ends, Brazilian fans falling in behind Murray’s small-in-number cheering squad.
Some of the rallies were brutal, Del Potro’s biggest weapon – his forehand – pinned Murray to the baseline and made it an entirely enthralling slug-fest. The match was two hours old and only 20 games had been completed.
The word Murray used most as he discussed the achievement was ’tired’ but the last four months have been the best of his career, from a final at Roland Garros to winning at Queen’s Club and Wimbledon.
He’ll head to Flushing Meadow – via Cincinnati where he will play this week – as the world’s in-form player, following Djokovic’s early exits at the All England Club and Olympics.
Last year he admits he underperformed in New York, losing in the fourth round to Kevin Anderson, his earliest Grand Slam exit for five years. There were questions raised about his punishing schedule and he concurs he got it wrong.
“After Wimbledon this year I took a break for nine days and then I’ve been able to train on the hard courts,” he added.
“Last year I didn’t have enough days off and that caught up with me at the US Open. I struggled in every match I played and I learned a lot from that.”
And with that Murray was off, knowing the next few weeks could define what may be the greatest season yet in his career.
l Aldi is the first Official Supermarket partner of Team GB and has been championing our nation’s extraordinary athletes on their Road to Rio and encouraging the public to tuck into fresh, affordable, Great British food. For more information visit aldi.co.uk