The drought is over. For the first time since 1936 a British man has won a singles Grand Slam title. And that man is Andy Murray. The 25-year-old Murray ended years of English futility by outlasting rival Novak Djokovic 7-6, 7-5, 2-6 ,3-6, 6-2 to win his first Major at the US Open in an exhausting 4 hours, 54 minutes.
“It was incredibly tricky conditions, after the third and fourth sets it was tough mentally for me,” Murray told the crowd afterwards. “I don’t know how I managed to come through in the end.”
The final, delayed for the fifth straight year because of rain, began in windy conditions similar to Saturday when both guys handled the elements differently. Murray battled through Tomas Berdych while an agitated Djokovic was out of sorts against David Ferrer.
Today, because of the conditions it was another disjointed start. The two traded multiple breaks before Murray jumped out 4-2. Djokovic finally found his game in the bluster to regain the break and force a pulse-pounding tiebreak, eventually won on his sixth set point by the Scot 12-10 to close a 90 minute opening stanza.
Djokovic then letdown and found himself quickly in a 4-0 hole in the second. But as Murray eased up and started playing defensive, perhaps prematurely smelling victory or feeling the weight of the pressure, Djokovic began firing. The Serb rebounded to get to level at 5-5 but it was all for not as Murray pulled through with the set 7-5.
Up two sets it looked over. It wasn’t.
The third and fourth sets belonged to Djokovic. The Serb carried the momentum he found in the second to roll in the third and then build a break lead the fourth. Murray, who looked down and out early in the fourth, began playing freely and showed signs of rejuvenation as Novak pushed it to a decider.
Just when things were all pointing Novak’s way, now, Murray stunningly broke to open the fifth and then broke again. Djokovic got one break back but with his body failing it was too big a climb. And when a Djokovic forehand sailed long Murray became a champion, at last.
Murray’s win caps a unbelievable year in which four different players won the four Grand Slams, a rarity in this Federer-Nadal era. And as remarkable Murray’s the fifth different US Open men’s winner in the last five years.
Andy has now won the last two big titles, the Olympics and the US Open, and while it’s a longshot he’ll contend for No. 1 this year (he’ll move to No. 3 with the win), next year he just might if he can build on tonight and with Federer getting up there in years and Nadal fighting that knee, who knows. For a man who had won just one set in four prior Slam finals, he put on a show tonight, and he credited new coach Ivan Lendl who also suffered early Slam setbacks for his help.
“It’s great to have him helping me and supporting me in the tough moments,” Murray said about Lendl.
For Djokovic, it was a tough loss and the wind didn’t do him any favors. Murray’s defensive game is much more adaptable in windy conditions and in it he was just the better player. And also credit to Murray for not succumbing to the collapse at the end. It did look bleak entering the fifth.
“It’ wasn’t to be,” Djokovic said on the court. “I want to congratulate Andy on his first Grand Slam. He absolutely deserves it.
“I really tried my best,” Novak added. “I gave it my all, it was another tremendous match to be a part of.”
Overall, it was quite a match between the two 25-year-olds who first began playing when they were just entering their teens. At first, rather horrible, but as the wind eased and the stakes rose some of the rallies were simply jawdropping – both guys are two of the best defensive players on the planet.
And when all is said and done, Andy Murray is finally a Grand Slam champion. And a well deserved one at that. Cue the bagpipes…
(Bagpipes added – Tom)
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