Andy Murray, after failing four times, finally succeeded in winning a Grand Slam championship, defeating Novak Djokovic in five very hard sets Monday night. The match, which tied the longest in U.S. open history, tested both players to the utmost, and Murray had the most.
Murray not only won his own first Grand Slam trophy, he won the first for Great Britain in 76 years. No longer will the 25-year-old Murray have to carry that burden into every match.
Murray had his double mental burden, but Novak Djokovic had his own pressure, trying to regain his number-one ranking. On top of the mental strain, the weather added an extra physical challenge: the four-hour, 54-minute match, which tied the longest in U.S. Open history, was made harder by the swirling gusting wind which hindered both players.
Murray took the first two sets; then Djokovic fought back. The decisive fifth set demanded the best of each player, and it was Andy Murray who was fractionally stronger in body and mind. Both played with tremendous skill and heart, but in the all-important final set, Djokovic got cramps in his thighs, and Murray didn’t tighten up under the pressure of seeing his goal so close.
“It was incredibly tricky conditions,” Murray told NBC Sports. “After the third and fourth sets it was tough mentally for me. Novak is so, so strong—he fights until the end in every single match. I don’t know how I managed to come through in the end; I guess it was close to five hours. I have had some really long tough matches; I just managed to get though.”
The first set started with a trade of breaks; then Murray held at love and broke Djokovic a second time.
Both players were forced to be tentative—the wind might take any shot and send it anywhere. Adapting to the terrible conditions was key, and here initially Andy Murray did better. Djokovic, who couldn’t adapt to the wind in his first set against Ferrer in the semi-finals, had a hard time against Murray.
Djokovic managed to stay in the match and got the break back to tie up the set.
The 87-minute set established a tradition of very long rallies—several over thirty shots, one of 54. The very competitive set ended in longest tiebreak in US Open men’s history which Murray won 12-10
Murray started the second set with a 4-0 run. Djokovic started to show signs of frustration, and Murray started to look like he could win his first Grand Slam.
Halfway through the set Djokovic seemed to realize his desperate situation, and the 25-year-old Serb found some inner fountain of energy—he went on a 13-3 run and got the break back. From down 4-0 Djokovic was fighting to go to another tiebreak.
Murray didn’t allow it, shutting Djokovic down in his final serving game to win the set 7–5.
Murray opened the third set with a hold, but Djokovic was unfazed. He started coming to the net more and more successfully and also started finding the range with his serve. Within two games it was Murray who was talking to himself, giving up a double fault to create a double-break point which Djokovic conveted. Djokovic then hit a couple big serves and started rolling over Murray, winning the third set 6–2
Djokovic kept improving through the fourth set. By now both players had adapted to the wind; it was a battle of fitness and will, and both were well-equipped. Murray showed signs of being upset after a few particularly painful misses, but didn’t lose focus, while Djokovic kept hitting harder and moving faster, and jumping hard on Murray’s second serve. The lanky Serb won this set 6–3.
This set up a final set, a final confrontation between two of the biggest hitters and best returners in the game, with Djokovic fighting to get back his number-one ranking and Murray trying to win his first Grand Slam.
Murray opened by winning three straight games before Djokovic got a break back. The momentum shifted from player to player with each point. Murray started nailing huge serves to go with his cannonball groundtrokes, while Djokovic covered the entire court and hit back just as hard.
Until the sixth game, when Djokovic started showing signs of stiffness or soreness in his legs. Amazing—the tennis machine Novak Djokovic breaking down physically while the once-moody Andy Murray stayed strong in mind and body. After getting broken yet again, with Murray about to serve for the match, Djokovic called for his trainer for a leg massage.
All this merely delayed the inevitable. Murray was too close to let anything stop him. The 25-year-old Brit ran up three quick points before his opponent finally got on the board, then blasted in another big serve which Djokovic hit long, giving Murray game, set, match and a place in tennis history.