ANDY Murray is in the Wimbledon final for the second year running - but only after a titanic struggle against Jerzy Janowicz that included the biggest controversy of this year’s Championships when the roof was closed after three sets.
The Scot, who has now reached the finals of the last four Grand Slam events he has been in, lost the first set on the tiebreak, but hit back to win 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
“I’m delighted with that,” he said minutes later. “Very tough match, completely different to any match I’ve played so far. I’m glad to get it done.
“The first set was tough to lose. The third set was huge when I came back from 4-1 down to win five games in a row.”
Murray had been annoyed when the roof was closed around 8.30pm, arguing there was still enough light to play another set. He had just gone two sets to one up.
“It’s a tough situation,” he accepted. “There were probably 45 minutes of light left. I like to think this is an outdoor event.
“I managed to regain my focus. We had 20 minutes off court, I had a shower, managed to talk to the guys a bit.”
In today’s first match on Centre Court, Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro played out an epic, with No 1 seed Djokovic eventually winning in five sets. It was the longest semi-final ever played at Wimbledon.
Janowicz’s lack of experience at this level was an obvious source of speculation as that five-setter ended. Having had five hours to wait to get on court, how nervous would the Pole have become? Would he be able to handle the tension?
We soon got our answer. Murray had an easy hold in the opening game, then Janowicz opened up with all guns blazing. One of his serves registered at 140 miles per hour - not far short of the world record - and another at 139mph. And, proving he is by no means a one-weapon player, he also displayed his surprisingly subtle drop shot.
Murray had said that his return of serve would be the key, and that steadily became apparent. He had a break point in the fourth game thanks to some excellent returning, but Janowicz saved it with a second serve that clocked more than 120mph.
Murray’s own serve was little short of excellent in that first set, and he held it easily all the way through. Janowicz, by contrast, had to save another two break points - set points in fact - when serving at 4-5 down. Serving to stay in the set for a second time, he did so far more easily to force the tiebreak.
Murray began it badly by dropping the opening point on serve, and a second mini-break put him 4-0 down. Two points later he had closed to 4-2, but that was as good as got for him, and the Pole ran out a 7-2 winner.
Having played so well, Janowicz was unable to maintain that level at the start of the second set, dropping the opening game. Both men were more vulnerable on serve, and both had to save break points in the fifth and sixth games. Murray was in trouble again in the eighth, but once he escaped the set was in the bag. One more hold for both men and the Scot won it 6-4.
Murray went for a toilet break before the start of the third set, returning with a vest on. Janowicz, meanwhile, began moaning to umpire Jake Garner, putting pressure on him to close the roof. The official insisted that play would go on for “as long as we can”, which obviously meant while the natural light was good enough. That explanation was not good enough for Janowicz, who demanded to know what it meant.
It seemed implausible that, a little after 8pm, the younger man was suddenly having problems seeing the ball. A more likely explanation for his complaint was the desire to disrupt Murray’s rhythm by enforcing the half-hour break needed while the roof is closed and the atmosphere inside Centre Court is regulated.
A few games into that third set, however, that rhythm had been disrupted. Murray saved a break point in the second game but could not do so in the fourth and so went 3-1 down. At 4-2 Janowicz was a break point down himself, and this time his drop shot could not get him out of trouble, as Murray scooped up a crosscourt forehand winner.
From 4-3 Murray served without dropping a point, and at 4-4 the set was in the balance again. Janowicz was rattled again as he lost the first three points, provoking boos from the crowd by hitting the net with his racket after the second of them. He saved one break point but could do no better, and Murray then served out to go two sets to one up.
Janowicz left the court at that point, and tournament referee Andrew Jarrett came on to tell Murray that the roof would be closed before play was resumed. The Scot was apoplectic.
“You can’t close it now, man,” Murray said. “He’s been complaining about it for the last 40 minutes. It’s not even dark. There’s at least 45 minutes or an hour left to play tennis. It’s two sets to one and no set has taken that long. The only reason we’re stopping is he’s been complaining. It’s not even dark.
“This isn’t fair. He’s been complaining about it. The only reason you’re doing this is he’s been complaining.”
That was around 8.40pm. The latest finish in pre-roof days had been 50 minutes later than that, in the 2008 final, when Rafael Nadal hammered down his winning point against Roger Federer at 9.31pm.
It was nearly 9.10pm when, after a brief warm-up on court, the players began the fourth set. Janowicz had lost the last five games in a row, but held the opener easily. Would that signal a change of fortunes? No - as Murray showed by taking a 3-1 lead.
From there, Janowicz was soon serving to stay in the match at 5-3 down. Two double faults in a row had him in trouble, and after two hours and 52 minutes Murray claimed the contest on his first match point.