Murray ends British drought with 5-set win

Posted Monday, Sep. 10, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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FLUSHING, N.Y. -- Fred Perry can rest just a little easier today.

The balance of the British population is making some very real noise. Somewhere, maybe everywhere, bagpipes are blasting.

With a final swashbuckling swipe of his sword, 25-year-old Andy Murray of Dunblane, Scotland, erased 76 years of suffering by British tennis fans.

His 7-6 (12-10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 victory over defending champion Novak Djokovic in the final of the U.S. Open allowed Murray to become the first man from the United Kingdom to win a major since Perry scored his third U.S. Nationals and eighth and final major in 1936.

It was September 10, 1933, 79 years to the day that Perry won his first major with a five-set victory over Australian Jack Crawford in the finals of the U.S. Nationals at Forest Hills.

The victory was Murray's first major in five attempts as he lost in the finals of the 2008 U.S. Open and 2010 Australian Open to Roger Federer, last year's Australian to Djokovic and at Wimbledon this year in a dramatic, emotional four-set final against Federer. He beat Djokovic in straight sets in the semifinals of the Olympics in London en route to the gold medal.

"The word I would have to use is relief," Murray said. "I know how big a moment it is for British history. It's great to have finally done it and put it behind me so hopefully now I can get more."

The four-hour and 54-minute match tied the record for the longest U.S. Open final with the 1988 match between Murray's coach, Ivan Lendl, and Sweden's Mats Wilander.

When Lendl was apprised of the fact right after Murray's win, he quipped, "Yeah, but I lost that one."

Moments later, Wilander appeared outside the players' locker room to congratulate Lendl on Murray's victory.

Murray hired the three-time U.S. Open champ in January and the 52-year-old Czech immediately set out to enhance the Scotsman's physical training and work ethic. He also set out to instill the confidence to win majors.

Ironically, Lendl, like Murray, lost his first four major finals - the 1981 French Open, 1982 U.S. Open and 1983 Australian and U.S. Opens - before he came back from two sets down to beat John McEnroe in the 1984 French Open final.

Against Djokovic, Murray nearly squandered a two-set lead. Both players spent the 87-minute first set readjusting and recalibrating their equipment and their mind sets to deal with the gusty wind that favored the north side of the court (left of chair umpire Jake Garner) so much that it took six games for a player to win on the south side.

Murray had played his semifinal against Thomas Berdych in similar conditions on Saturday before rain forced Djokovic and David Ferrer to abandon their match later in the day with Djokovic down 5-2 in the first set.

When they returned the next day, the skies were clear, the winds calm and Djokovic won in four sets.

The delayed men's semifinal meant that for the fifth year in a row the men's final forced the final to be played on Monday afternoon.

But the 25,101 hardy tennis fans were treated to one of the best, most-hard-fought finals in U.S. Open memory.

Murray needed six set points to close out the first-set tiebreaker, but Djokovic immediately raced to a 4-0 lead in the second, a lead he couldn't hold. That allowed Murray to draw even at five games, and then take the set when the Serb pushed a forehand wide on Murray's second set point.

The windy conditions forced hesitation from both men as they traded blistering ground strokes for more reliable slices and dices. By the time Djokovic had fought his way back to take the third and fourth sets, both players were so focused that the blustery breeze and chilly atmosphere bothered only the fans in their seats.

But they never gave up the fight, their adrenaline levels palpable, even when Murray broke twice to go up 3-0 in the fifth set. By the end, so exhausted was Djokovic that he was treated for leg cramps just before the final game, drawing jeers from the crowd and a resulting thumbs-up sign from Djokovic.

Murray then won four of the next five points and sunk to his knees in exaltation.

"Any loss is a bad loss, there's no question about it," said Djokovic, who will remain ranked No. 2 in the world behind Roger Federer, while Murray will rise beyond Rafael Nadal (absent from the U.S. Open with a knee injury) to No. 3. "But I had a great opponent today. He deserved to win this Grand Slam more than anybody."

As for Fred Perry, Murray, who grew up wearing the British legend's clothing line, knows that he would be proud of his accomplishment.

"I'm sure he's up there smiling," the newest U.S. Open champ said.

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