Andy Murray Triumphs In New York

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By Cressida Smart

After four hours and fifty eight minutes, Andy Murray triumphed against Novak Djokovic in the US Open 2012 men’s final and claimed his maiden grand slam. In a match that stretched to five sets, both players showed their undeniable talent and stamina. It was a night that saw history being made and the culmination of Murray’s hard work, patience and endurance.

At the start of the much hyped final, the first set saw Djokovic lose the first seven points on his own serve and Murray the first three on his as both men were broken in their opening service games. They made many more unforced errors than winners, but given the gusty conditions that forced both to adjust their game the word “unforced” was barely appropriate. There were some exceptionally long rallies, including one of 54 shots in the sixth game of the first set and they were both frequently forced to delay their serves and used more slice than normal.

At 2-2, Djokovic, having saved four break points two games earlier, was broken for a second time after serving two double faults. With Murray leading 4-3, Djokovic broke back and the set went to a tie-break. Djokovic went ahead at 5-3, but Murray dominated thereafter. The Serb saved four set points, the last of them after a 33-stroke rally, before sending a backhand long under attack from the Scot, who finally took the set after 87 minutes when the defending champion was unable to return serve.

In all but the very first of the 14 previous meetings between these two men, the player who won the first set had gone on to win the match. Judging by his play at the start of the second set, it was as if Djokovic was all too aware of that statistic as Murray raced into a 4-0 lead. However, Novak broke both in the next game and again two games later, with Andy sending a forehand long on break point as a gust of wind took control of the ball. Nevertheless, the new world No 3 regrouped and when Djokovic served at 5-6 and 15-30, the Serb put a smash wide. On the first break point Murray put a return of serve into the net, but on the second Djokovic hit a forehand into the tramlines.

At two sets up, it looked like Murray was storming to a straight sets victory against the defending champion. Those who thought Andy would wrap the match up in the three sets underestimated the force of Djokovic. He upped his game with ferocious defending blended with attacking moves at the net. He took the third set 6-2 in 46 minutes and in the fourth, he made the early break. When the Scot served at 3-5, a double fault and three successive errors saw Djokovic level the match. The crowd on its feet roared with excitement.

Incidentally, no one had lost in the US Open men’s final after winning the first two sets since Pancho Gonzalez defeated Ted Schroeder in 1949. It seemed that after four lost finals, Murray was at risk of cementing his reputation as the greatest player never to have won a grand slam. Tied at two sets apiece, Murray broke twice to lead 3-0, only for Djokovic to bring the score back to 3-2. Murray broke again to lead 5-2, after which Djokovic, to boos from the crowd, took a medical time-out to have his legs massaged. The Scot, however, was not to be denied and served out for victory, converting his second championship point when Djokovic hit a return long. He dropped his racket, looked up to the sky and held his head in his hands almost in disbelief. He embraced Djokovic at the net, who said, “Great job, you deserve it”, a sentiment echoed by those watching. Andy Murray finally became a grand slam champion.

In an era that has undoubtedly been dominated by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, two of the greatest players of all time, Murray has worked tirelessly to achieve his goal. Furthermore, he was facing a player who had won four of the previous seven Grand Slam tournaments, including the last three played on hard courts. The Serb had also won both his previous Grand Slam matches against Murray, his friend and rival ever since they first met at an under-12s tournament.

Those three individuals had famously won 29 of 30 tournaments dating as far back as 2005 before Murray’s victory on Monday. The trio made up an intimidating top three in the sport, a frustrating scenario for the rest of the field.

There has never been any doubt about Andy Murray’s talent nor his commitment, both of which he has in abundance. It is his temperament that has been cause for concern. When playing on level ground, Murray was as technically sound as anyone in the game. Yet all it took was a stubborn opponent or a few unforced errors for Murray to start chattering to himself out of frustration and in big games, Murray would become unravelled. He could keep his cool against a lesser opponent, but when facing players on his level or better, the psychological edge seemed to always tilt to the other end of the court for Murray. Match by match, tournament by tournament and season by season, Murray began to control his emotions. The frustration would still show as clearly on his face, but it became harder and harder to see in his game. Murray became capable of withstanding the psychological warfare waged upon him by opponents, the media and his own
expectations.

The presence of Ivan Lendl since early January of this year has been a remarkable influence upon the young Scot. He has remained by his side at matches, giving nothing away under his steel guise. A flicker of a smile came over his face as Murray accepted the US Open 2012 trophy and gave his speech. This is about as much emotion we will see from the Czech. Under his guidance, Murray reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open, the final at Wimbledon and captured Olympic gold in the singles which he did with controlled aggression. The eight-time Grand Slam winner instilled a growing confidence in Murray, encouraging him to reach his full potential. As a result, we have seen less of the angry mutterings and the slamming of the racket. Rarely have partnerships formed in such a short space of time, produced outstanding results. This year, Murray has improved physically, but more importantly, mentally, rising above the pressure from
Great Britain and the media.

When Andy Murray served for the championship, it did not matter when Fred Perry last won a Grand Slam title for Great Britain. It did not matter how many times that Novak Djokovic had psychologically bullied an opponent. It did not matter that he had already lost four title matches in his young career and had blown a 2-0 set lead in the match. He simply played tennis.

Andy Murray can now just be a tennis player. He is no longer Britain’s greatest hope to end a decades-long drought. He is no longer the black sheep of the Big Four. He is no longer tennis’ saddest story.

I will be the first to admit that Murray’s victory was impressive and well deserved. Over the past five years, I have made numerous bets against Andy winning a grand slam and up until now, I was in the money earning myself drinks, dinners and even tickets to a musical. However, I now have an expensive year ahead including treating one friend to an ice cream at Amorino, another to dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant and a third to a weekend in Paris during the French Open. Yet it is definitely worth it. I am happy to see Andy Murray finally win a grand slam and put the critics such as myself, to rest.

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