Andy Murray would not be denied his first Grand Slam title of his career as he defeated Novak Djokovic in five sets 7-6(12-10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2. The match was tied for longest match in U.S. Open final history at four hours and 54 minutes. As the final ball flew long on the near baseline, Andy Murray dropped to his knees and covered his mouth in disbelief as he had achieved long life dream as a tennis player.
Murray ended a 76-year drought for men’s British tennis as he became the first man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a Grand Slam singles title. Even though Murray is from Scotland, he represents Great Britain and he has accepted the challenge of winning a major for Great Britain.
“Relief is probably the best word I would use to describe how I’m feeling just now,” Murray said. “You’re in a little bit of disbelief, because when I have been in that position many times before and not won, you do think: Is it ever going to happen?”
Murray showed that on a big stage that he could perform well. Murray won singles gold in front of his home crowd last month during the London Olympics. That win was different than the one he experienced Monday night New York. He finally had joined the Grand Slam club that includes Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic. There had always been a big three in tennis, but now there is a big four.
Andy Murray entering his fifth slam final had previously been 0-4. He lost three of those finals to Federer, most recently the 2012 Wimbledon Final, and one to Djokovic, the 2011 Australian Open. Murray’s career has been a mirror image of his coach Ivan Lendl.
Lendl took over as Murray’s coach prior to the Australian Open and added aggression to Murray’s game. They will be forever linked as the only two men in the Open Era to go 0-4 in their first four trips to a Grand Slam final. And just like Lendl, Murray would go on to win his first Grand Slam title in his fifth appearance in a Grand Slam final.
Murray is having a successful season under the guidance of Lendl. Murray has appeared in two Grand Slam finals, winning one, as well as winning the Olympic Singles Gold at the London Games. Murray carried his success from the Wimbledon and Olympic finals into today’s match against Novak Djokovic.
Murray had played Djokovic earlier in the season in an epic five-set Australian Open semifinal. Djokovic prevailed against Murray after being down two sets to one and he was looking to make another comeback during the U.S. Open being down two sets to none. However, the hole was too much for Djokovic to dig out of as he could not muster another comeback. As the match progressed into the fifth set, Djokovic’s body started to break down as he called for the trainer to work on a groin injury he sustained during a rally in the fifth set.
Djokovic was not disappointed in the way he played because he left in all on the court, but he did not want lose this tournament. “Well, any loss is a bad loss. There is no question about it, Djokovic said. “I’m disappointed to lose the match, but in the back of my mind I knew that I gave it all. I really, really tried to fight my way back.”
Djokovic was looking to become the first man since Pancho Gonzalez in 1949 to rally from two sets down and win the U.S. Open. This was something Murray was looking to avoid after all the heartbreak he had experience in the past.
“If I had lost this one from two set up, Murray said, “that would have been a tough one to take.”
Murray took the loss at Wimbledon really hard as he began to cry and say, “I’m getting closer.” Who knew Murray could see into the future and predict his own destiny? Two months later after that quote he is holding the trophy up above his head the United States Open.
Djokovic has a history of making comebacks at Grand Slam events. He’s won three times after facing a two-set hole, most recently at this year’s French Open during fourth round, where he rallied against Andreas Seppi. His most notable comeback was at last year’s U.S. Open against Roger Federer during the semifinals, where he not all rallied from two sets down, but saved two match points in the fifth set.
Murray knew that it was not going to be easy after taking two sets to none lead over Djokovic last night as said during the trophy presentation, “After the third and fourth sets it was tough mentally for me… Novak fights till the end and I don’t know how I managed to come through in the end.”
This match will be remembered for the grueling side-to-side baseline rallies that drew loud gasps from the energized New York fans during points. Both players produced aw-inspiring shots in difficult conditions. After many of their 30 stroke rallies, the New York crowd would give the players standing ovations because of the great tennis being played.
Murray, who needed six set points to win a 24-minute first-set tie-break 12-10, took an early 4-0 in the second set, and served for the second set at 5-2. The nerves got the best of Murray as he squandered that lead but he broke Novak’s serve at 6-5 to win the second set.
Djokovic had a 27-match winning streak going into the final and was chasing his fourth consecutive Grand Slam on a hard court. Djokovic dropped serve five times in the opening two sets but steadied the ship to win the third and fourth and only lost five games. However, Djokovic dropped his opening two service games of the fifth set as Murray raced to a 3-0 lead.
Djokovic was broken seven times during the final equaling the number which equaled the number of breaks he had surrendered during his first six matches leading into the final. Murray would hold his nerves this time closing out the fifth set 6-2.
With his first Grand Slam title, Murray joined Juan Martin Del Potro (2009 U.S. Open Champion), as the only players to break the Grand Slam dominance of Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal. The trio has won 29 of 31 majors dating back to 2005 Roland Garros.
Murray’s victory propelled him to number three in the South African Airways ATP Rankings passing Rafael Nadal. With his gold-medal performance at the London Olympics, Murray put himself in a position to challenge for the year-end world number one ranking. He is now a contender for player of the year honors.
Murray finally put the naysayers to bed, who continually asked when he was going to win a Grand Slam. Now that he has won his first major, the question becomes for Murray: Can he continue to win Grand Slam titles the way his coach Ivan Lendl did, after winning his first major?
For Murray, this first Grand Slam title will last a lifetime.