After US Open victory Andy Murray sets sights on more grand slam wins
A VICTORIOUS Andy Murray said he will be able to retire from tennis “happy” after becoming the first British man of the post-war era to win a grand slam, but vowed to try to continue his golden streak in the years to come.
The day after his fairytale in New York sparked jubilant scenes in his hometown of Dunblane and elicited congratulations from stars of the sporting, political, and showbusiness firmaments, the new world No3 said he had enjoyed the “best summer” of his life, having defeated Novak Djokovic in the final of the US Open to add to his Olympic men’s single title.
The 25-year-old’s epic 7-6 (12/10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 victory in a blustery Arthur Ashe Stadium over nearly five hours of play capped an astonishing few months of success, and has led to calls for him to be knighted and receive the freedom of the city of Stirling.
Such honours – and lucrative sponsorship deals – will likely come, but a visibly exhausted Murray said yesterday that he intends to relax in the weeks ahead, free from the weight of a nation’s expectation that has at long last been “dropped” from his shoulders.
“I realise how important a moment it was for British tennis,” he said. “It gave me goosebumps a little bit but I also had to try to focus because the match wasn’t done yet. I was very relieved to come through in the end.
“It’s been the best summer I’ve had in my life. I hope that winning the Olympics and now here will give a good push and motivation to go on and work hard and try to win some more big titles. I know it’s going to be challenging but even if I don’t I know that I’ll be able to retire happy knowing that I got this grand slam.”
He also thanked his supporters, who have cheered him on all the way from Stratford to New York, adding: “It’s been an unbelievable few months, with the Olympics and Paralympics, amazing support, it makes a huge difference to how everyone performs, so thank you.”
After just an hour’s sleep, Murray awoke at 6am yesterday to embark on the circuit of US television breakfast shows before attending a reception in his honour hosted by Danny Lopez, the British Consul General, later posing with his trophy in Central Park. Having had little opportunity to digest his win, he cut a taciturn figure during interviews, and stressed that the time for contemplation would arrive over the next few weeks, when he enjoys some well-earned time off from training and competition to spend time with friends and family.
He said: “I think when I go home, and just get to be in my own bed, my normal surroundings, and be around my dogs and just do all the normal stuff that I always do, that will be the time where I have the chance to just reflect on everything that’s happened this summer – not just here but Wimbledon as well, and how tough that was.
“It’s been up and down emotionally for me the last couple months, so I’m glad it finished on a high. When I’ve had big wins before, it normally takes a few days for it to sink in, and for me to start getting quite emotional about it, thinking about all the hard work and stuff you’ve put in.
“The moment it happened I was in a bit of shock, and then just pure relief. I feel just like the weight has just dropped off my shoulders now, and I can relax for a few weeks.”
In the aftermath of his dramatic win over Djokovic, the Scot and his entourage hit the city’s exclusive Hakkasan restaurant, and proceeded to rack up a bill for more than £4,000. Having broken a pattern that has seen Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic win every major bar one in the men’s game since 2004, few would deny Murray his celebrations, and considering that a pint of beer cost just 14p in 1936, his feat appears all the more remarkable.
That was the year Fred Perry conquered Wimbledon and the US Open, laying down a record which seemed to become set in stone, suffocating generations of British contenders who strived to rewrite it. Finally, though, Murray prevailed where others fell, defeating not only Djokovic, but the great hoodoo of British tennis. As his grandmother, Shirley Erskine, observed: “He knows he can go out there, the monkey’s off his back now.”
With the 24th title of his career, he also became the first Scot to take home one of the major titles since 1896, when Edinburgh-born Harold Mahony, a barrister’s son with an irregular forehand, won at SW19.
Murray’s win came at the fifth time of asking, having previously contested four grand slam finals, only to falter at the final hurdle. Yet in each of those defeats – to Federer at the US Open in 2008, the Australian Open in 2010, and this year’s Wimbledon tournament, along with a loss against Djokovic in Australia last year – he exhibited a gradual improvement in his game and temperament, culminating in yesterday’s special moment.
The Scot’s coach, Ivan Lendl, was among a host of prominent figures to suggest yesterday that the US Open win will open the floodgates, and a great many more titles lie in wait.
The Czech, who like Murray lost four grand slam finals before winning his fifth, hinted at untapped potential in the Scot still to come to the fore.
“I’m very happy for him. It’s a great achievement for him and let’s hope he can continue and rack up many more,” said the coach, who joined the Murray team last December. You can help somebody for a very short period of time. However, it takes more than that. You cannot help somebody in one week, you cannot do that in one month and hopefully we are not anywhere near where Andy can be.”
Earlier, however, Murray said he had given little thought overnight to how the title would impact on his career, but expressed confidence that it would have a positive influence.
“Right now I’m just very happy, I haven’t really thought too much about that,” he admitted. “But I know how difficult it is to win one of these tournaments, and yes, I think it will help me, and hopefully take a bit of the pressure away from me.”
It is hoped that Murray will join the parade of Scottish Olympians who will travel through the streets of Glasgow on Friday. He will arrive home a hero, having fulfilled the potential he displayed eight years ago when, again under the Manhattan skyline, he secured the boys’ singles crown at the US Open.
The path he has followed since has been long and arduous, but at last, Murray has reached his destination. The journey, however, is far from over.
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