Murray wins epic US Open final
Andy Murray finally claims a Grand Slam title, emerging victorious from an epic five-hour battle against Novak Djokovic at the US Open.PT0M0S 620 349
It is tempting to declare this a shameful day for English sport. To claim that, 76 years after that country produced its last male grand slam winner, even cross-border rival Scotland has one.
However, these are sensitive times. To air such a provocative proposition might have the author cast down into the dark world of the social media trolls. Especially if England gets the internet.
Now Murray has the trophy that makes him a genuine member of the Big Four, rather than a racquet wielding Shemp - a fourth Stooge.
Besides, Andy Murray's groundbreaking victory over Novak Djokovic at the US Open deserves far greater respect and acclaim. To carry the doubts created by his four previous grand slam final defeats, not to mention the expectations of a success-starved tennis nation, into a fifth set, and emerge with the trophy, is a monumental achievement of the body and the mind.
I've done it ... Andy Murray after defeating Novak Djokovic. Photo: Getty Images
Even greater given Murray relinquished a two-set lead and with it, it seemed, his best chance yet to win one of the titles upon which careers are measured.
So long have the British craved a grand slam champion, they would be equally jubilant had Murray been the recipient of seven defaults at Flushing Meadows. It was an added bonus that the 25-year-old endured a tortuous five-set trial - 7-6 (12-10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 - before becoming the first British man since Fred Perry, at Forest Hills in 1936, to lift a major trophy.
During the past decade, particularly, Britain's Lawn Tennis Association, an aptly archaic title, had thrown everything into producing a big-time winner. Murray was one of the major beneficiaries, with large sums spent on his coaches, including Andre Agassi's one-time mentor Brad Gilbert.
U.S. Open Men's Singles Tennis Final
Andy Murray of Great Britain plays in the men's singles final match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia on Day Fifteen of the 2012 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 10, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Photo: AP
However, rather than a blank cheque, it proved to be a blank Czech who made the difference. Enter Ivan Lendl, the ironman who also had to endure grand slam final heartbreak four times before clinching his first title. Lendl added his own fierce mental application to Murray's game and balanced the Scot's preparation with his aching desire. The results were apparent when Murray rallied in the final set, as Djokovic wilted.
The symmetry of the Murray-Lendl partnership was reflected on the clock. The final lasted a strength-sapping four hours, 54 minutes, equalling the record created by Lendl and Mats Wilander in 1988. Although Lendl lost that battle.
''I think that was almost a smile,'' said Murray, as he looked towards his taciturn coach during the presentation ceremony. And, just briefly, the Lendl teeth made a rare public appearance.
Andy Murray lifts the US Open trophy. Photo: Getty Images
When Murray won the Olympic gold medal, the achievement seemed to mock his grand slam record, rather than enhance it. He had proven he could win at Wimbledon, but not win ''Wimbledon''.
However, in retrospect, absorbing the pressure and expectation in London seemed to provide the self-belief he needed to add to an already muscular game.
Now Murray has the trophy that makes him a genuine member of the Big Four, rather than a racquet wielding Shemp - a fourth Stooge. No longer is he merely the rather grim-faced bridesmaid whose backstory, as a survivor of the Dunblane massacre, was often the source of greater fascination than his game. A game that reached new heights in this final.
Rewind the tape of some epic matches, and it is the tightness of the scores and the exertion of the players, rather than the quality of the tennis, that is the distinguishing feature. This, however, was an exceptional match not merely for its length, but also its physicality and precision. As the players dug deep to land yet another groundstroke on the line, the final stages were part Greco-Roman wrestling, part geometry.
Inevitably, Djokovic would be the first to succumb. The Serb is famed for his impersonations. But as he jiggled his legs trying to shake out the cramp, there was no mimicry. He was a man in distress.
Yet, even when Murray twisted the knife by breaking serve and taking a 5-2 lead, there remained a sense of disbelief. Would the brief delay caused when Djokovic called for a trainer to massage his thighs play on Murray's mind? Would the self-doubts created by his previous grand slam final defeats, not to mention Britain's long drought, cause him to crumble?
Not a bit of it. Finally, when Djokovic's ambitious forehand sailed over the line, Britain had a male grand slam champion. Now back to Wimbledon, for ''The Championships'', not the Olympics, where England will, for once, have every right to expect.