BY THE end, Andy Murray had brought the gigantic Jerzy Janowicz and his monstrous serve crashing to earth like a falling tree, the power in the Pole’s game diminished so completely that he had nothing left to give.
Just after 9.30pm, with the roof closed but the noise of the Centre Court still travelling far and wide across south-west London, Murray saw off his opponent and made it his second successive Wimbledon and his fourth straight grand slam final.
This was Murray at his nerveless best. The man has been through so many tight matches and slipped out of so many tight spots that we should have long since stopped doubting his capacity to turn a match around. Here again, though, he had us panicking when trailing 4-1 in the third set, all the momentum at that point belonging to Janowicz, the 22-year-old coming kid of world tennis, a player with such vicious hitting power and such a graceful touch that he will surely see much of him in the years to come. Not at this Wimbledon, though. With all the preamble so utterly dominated by Janowicz’s terminator serve the irony of that opening set was that it was the Pole rather than the Scot who struggled to hold, Murray taking ten points including three break points on the Janowicz serve (none of them coverted) with Janowicz only taking five points on the Murray serve, which was near flawless.
Janowicz faced break point in his second service game and two more in his fifth, all of them seen off with the help of the rocket the Pole he holds in reserve when his first booming delivery doesn’t find its target. In clawing his way back from 15-40 to level at 5-5, Janowicz put in two second serves, the first measured at 118mph and the second at 117mph. When you’re packing that kind of firepower then then you take a hell of a lot of beating, as was shown soon enough. We went to a tiebreak and Centre Court went to hell in a handcart, groaning and shrieking as Janowicz’s game went from powerful to borderline demonic. Two vicious forehands put him 2-0 ahead, then a monstrous ace made it 3-0 and a Murray error at the net made it four. There was no way back, Janowicz galloping away with it 7-2 to take the set.
He was buzzing, the big man. A little nervous early on, he was now battering his groundstrokes. Murray was dealing with his serve but was having the devil’s own job of handling his forehand and the lightness of touch in a procession of gorgeous drop-shots that skimmed out of Murray’s range time and again.
A champion is a champion, though. Murray roared back in quick order, breaking Janowicz in the first game of the second set and then surviving break points in back-to-back service games, three in the eighth game alone. These were massive moments. Momentum-savers. The act of escapology meant that he went on to close out the set 6-4.
If Murray goes on to win this championship then he might look back on so many moments from this match and see them as seismic turning points in the great story. That third set for a start. What a torrid business it was. What pressure Janowicz applied and what great strength Murray found once again, just as he did in huge adversity in his quarter-final against Fernando Verdasco. Murray faced two break points early in the third and then aced his way out of trouble, three in a row allowing him to elude the Polish firing squad who merely regrouped and came again and this time Janowicz didn’t miss his target. He broke Murray with one of his trademark sliced drop-shots, a thing of beauty that had his opponent staring to the gods. Janowicz went 4-1 clear in the set and if we were talking about significant moments in Murray’s path to the final then here they came, a stream of them. He got a lucky net cord that gave him break point and a chance to eat into Janowicz’s lead. And he took it. Lord, how he took it. He won the next game to love. Broke the Pole once again and took the set and all the impetus.
Janowicz had lost a 4-1 lead and how it showed. Halfway through that third set he started calling for the roof to be closed even though the light in the evening sky was perfectly fine to play on. He griped and moaned about it and got his way at the end of the set. Centre Court ceased to be one of sport’s great theatres and became more of a circus when the match referee called for the roof to be shut. Janowicz had his way, the pantomime baddie trooping off to the accompanying boos of the crowd and the simultaneous disgust of his opponent who stayed rooted in his seat, protesting and gesticulating and, frankly, not believing such a decision could be made when there was enough brightness to continue.
What Murray feared most was that his advantage would be lessened by the 25-minute break, that Janowicz could get himself indoors and calm himself down at precisely the moment when he looked to be losing the plot.
None of it mattered, though. Open or closed, the roof made no difference because Murray was dominant now and the dominance continued when they reappeared, a Janowicz double fault and a missed forehand that earlier would found the spot setting up the break and the match and the final against his old mate, Djokovic.