Wimbledon heartache spurred Murray to US Open win
HE said through the tears at Wimbledon that he was getting closer but now, through tears of joy, Andy Murray has reached his goal: he is the US Open champion. Britain has its first grand slam winner in 76 years.
It took nearly five hours of sinew-snapping effort and, for a couple of sets it seemed as if his dream was about to be destroyed by a rampant opponent, but Murray fought harder than he has ever fought in his life and finally beat Novak Djokovic 7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 to win the title.
As Djokovic had pointed out before the final, both he and Murray have known each other for a lifetime; they both try to play, much the same game attack from the baseline and when both are fit and on song, the result comes down to a couple of points here or there. And where Murray has more variety in his game, Djokovic on a hard court is the master of turning defence into attack. With limbs apparently made of elastic, he slides on the cement as if it were clay and from ten feet behind the baseline, he can turn any lost cause into an outrageous winner.
But this summer, Murray is a changed man. With the Wimbledon and Olympic finals behind him and now into his fifth major final, he had at last matched Fred Perry. Perry was the last Briton to reach consecutive grand slam finals he lost at Roland Garros before going on to win at Wimbledon and in New York. And that was the last time a British man won a grand slam title.
In blustery conditions, Murray simply got on with the job in front of him. It was the Scot who was the confident, controlled and calm campaigner as, after an exchange of service breaks, he broke again and started to dictate the play.
Djokovic, by contrast, looked confused he could handle neither the conditions, the occasion or Murray. Launching an all-out attack, Djokovic, began to look like a five-times grand slam champion. He trusted his shots and he tried to find a hole in the Scots defences. This was not easy as, sensing the danger, Murray retaliated. The two old rivals, knowing each others games inside out, punched and counter punched for one hour and 27 minutes just to get the first set completed.
As the rallies grew longer one was 55 strokes while 20 and 30 stroke battles were just run of the mill both men covered acres of ground. They forced each other into corners and yet both men found a way to escape. They ran and sweated and chased from the baseline and they lunged and leapt at the net as they tried every trick in the book to outwit the other. This game of cat and mouse lasted for more than hour and still the two could not be separated. And if the set had been fraught, the tiebreak was heart-stopping.
Throughout their previous 14 matches, a pattern had emerged between the two old pals: whoever won the first set won the match. Only in their first meeting back in 2006 did that rule not apply Djokovic lost the opening set but won the day so when the headed for the decider last night, they knew this could be the key to the championship. For 24 minutes they pushed each other to the limit as five set points came and went, Murrays nerves were stretched to snapping point. But when on the sixth set he thumped a service winner, his roar of satisfaction could be heard all the way back to Dunblane.
That set Murray off on a four-game rout he was heading for a two set lead before Djokovic had time to think. But still the Serb would not give up. He clawed his way back to 5-5 but when he went to serve to stay in the set, he could not stop the Scot from taking a two-set lead. Murray poured on the pressure and got his reward three errors from the defending champion and a break of serve. Murray was two sets to the good.
But with the trophy getting ever closer, the heart pounds, the palms sweat and the nerves jangle. A poor service game at the start of the third set cost Murray dear he was now 2-1 down and when he then missed two break point chances a couple of games later, he was angry and frustrated and he could not stop Djokovic from taking the fourth set. Now, in the fifth, they were all square with a title to play for. It was game on. And when Murray broke twice to take a 3-0 lead, the tide had finally turned. The Olympic champion was now the US Open champion and his life had changed forever.
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