Andy Murray makes history at the 2012 US Open.
© Clive Brunskill
By Erin Bruehl
Andy Murray dreamed he won Wimbledon a few days after losing the final in four sets to Roger Federer and then woke up and it hurt again, remembering what had really happened.
A few days after winning the Olympic gold medal over Federer, he dreamt he had lost, and this time he woke up and felt great again, remembering that he had won.
If a few days from now he dreams he won the US Open, it will indeed be a dream come true.
Murray fought, rallied and persevered to a 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 win over defending US Open champion Novak Djokovic for his first career Grand Slam singles title at the 2012 US Open. With the victory, he became the first British man to win a major title since Fred Perry won the U.S. Championships in 1936.
At four hours, 54 minutes, the match tied the US Open record for the longest men’s singles final, and it was the first five-set men’s final since 2009, when Juan Martin del Potro defeated Federer.
It was Murray’s first major title in his fifth Grand Slam singles final, just like his new coach, eight-time Grand Slam champion Ivan Lendl, who also won his first title in his fifth final. Murray is now one of just two men (the other del Potro) not named Djokovic, Federer or Rafael Nadal to win a Grand Slam since Wimbledon in 2005, helping solidify his status as one of the ‘Big Four’ currently on the ATP Tour.
The match Monday was an aggressive slugfest from the start, featuring multiple fierce 30-shot plus rallies, including one at 54, key momentum shifts and some spectacular shot-making in some cold and windy conditions.
Murray seemed to be on his way to a straight-sets victory after winning an 87-minute first set and then rallying from losing a two-break lead in the second. But Djokovic stepped up to the championship level that has won him five Grand Slam singles titles, playing points with confidence, improving his serve and putting pressure on the Scot in the third and fourth sets. But Murray did not let himself break down, even if he said at the end he was not sure how.
"It was an incredibly tough match, and, obviously it felt great at the end," Murray said. "Relief is probably the best word I would use to describe how I'm feeling just now. Yeah, very, very happy that I managed to come through because if I had lost this one from two sets up, that would have been a tough one to take.
"You're not sad; you're incredibly happy," he said of being in the winning position this time. "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?’ Then when it finally does, you just, you're obviously very, very excited."
Djokovic was gracious in defeat and complemented his opponent, whom he knew fought just as hard as he did.
"Well, any loss is a bad loss," Djokovic said. "There is no question about it. 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 through. I had a great opponent today. He deserved to win this Grand Slam more than anybody, I'm sure, because over the years he's been a top player. He's been so close; lost four finals. Now he has won it, so I would like to congratulate him."
The two opened the match with uncharacteristic back-to-back breaks, with Murray then going up 3-2 when Djokovic double faulted for the third time in the match and second time in the game, banging his racquet on the ground.
Both players battled errors throughout the match, with 56 unforced errors to 31 winners for Murray and 65 unforced errors to 40 winners for Djokovic, a testament to their aggressive play and some tough conditions to start. The rallies started early, though, as the longest of the match was a 54-shot exchange in the sixth game of the first set.
Djokovic got back on serve in the eighth game featuring two of the best points of the match. After a great volley exchange, Murray pushed a potential forehand passing shot wide, angrily hitting his racquet with his opposite hand for a triple break point for the Serb. Two points later, after an amazing defensive display from Murray, who was running back and forth along the baseline, Djokovic finally won the point when Murray missed. That brought the score to 4-all and put the set back on serve.
But the two saved their best for the first-set tiebreak, which turned into a heart-stopping rally slugfest. Djokovic seemed on his way to winning the first set when he took a 5-3 lead when Murray hit a forehand into the net after another rally, yelling at himself for the error. But two errors from Djokovic followed, one forehand into the net and another backhand into the net, as the Serb slipped and hit the deck, bloodying both knees slightly for 5-all. After a Djokovic backhand then went into the net, Murray had his first set point at 6-5, but the Serb was not going down easily, hitting an overhead winner for 6-all. Murray had another set point at 7-6, but he was unable to close it out again. Two points later, he had another at 8-7 after another long rally and then arguably the best point of the match ensued with 33 strokes, as the two sliced, spun and slugged balls back and forth, culminating when Murray finally missed a lob out wide for 8-all.
After two more set point chances at 9-8 and 10-9, Murray gained his sixth set point when Djokovic hit a shot long on a good Murray forehand. And this time he closed it out, finishing a scintillating 86-minute first set featuring many fierce rallies on a good first serve that Djokovic returned long.
Djokovic knew he had opportunities to win that set, but said there was no need to reflect on what could have been now.
"If I won that first set and had some chances, maybe the match would go a different way," he said. "But look, you know, there is no reason to go back and say, 'What if? What if?' He's a Grand Slam winner, and he deserves to be there."
Murray carried the momentum into the second, breaking Djokovic at love in his opening service game for the early lead and then breaking again for 4-0 quickly as the Serb was clearly frustrated and struggling with errors.
Djokovic battled back with a break back in the next game for 4-1, and Murray then held at love for 5-2, showing more positive energy than the Serb.
Murray served for the second set but appeared to tighten as Djokovic stepped up his game and quickly put the Scot into a 0-40 hole with multiple errors. He started a remarkable comeback from being down two breaks when Murray pushed a volley well long to put the second set back on serve at 5-4.
But Djokovic was unable to complete the recovery, losing his serve in what turned into the last game of the second set as Murray won 7-5, which included another great 30 shot rally.
In the third, Djokovic grabbed the 2-1 lead with a break, which he closed out on the first one with a deep return that Murray hit wide.
Djokovic upped his level in the third and extended his lead when Murray hit a backhand return wide for 4-2. He pushed his lead to 5-2 with another break after a game filled with errors from the Scot, who lost the game and then lost the set when Djokovic battled back to dictate and force a fourth set with an overhand volley winner.
The Djokovic fans have come to know the last few years and throughout this tournament continued to resurface, as he kept improving his first serve percentage and his first and second serves won and was firmly in control through the beginning of the fourth set. He broke Murray in his opening service game with very effective net play.
Murray had an opportunity to go back on serve in the fourth game but during another good rally, he netted a forehand and then returned long and dropped his racquet in anger before Djokovic closed it out when Murray hit his next return wide crosscourt.
The incredible rallies, defense and physicality surfaced a few games later again on Djokovic’s serve as another 30-stroke rally ensued. Murray kept moving the Serb around the court, dictating the points, but Djokovic was there to push them all back before slipping and falling again to allow Murray to hit the forehand winner to bring the game to deuce. Djokovic used effective net play again to gain the advantage and then Murray netted a forehand for 4-2 in favor of the Serb.
Murray’s serving woes continued and the momentum stayed solidly in Djokovic’s favor, in contrast to the opening two sets. He allowed Djokovic to break him to win the fourth 6-3.
After the fourth set, he told himself just keep fighting and was not thinking of what happened in other Grand Slams and that he could do this.
"I was thinking a bit more about what happened the last couple of sets and the situation I kind of found myself in after I guess it was nearly four hours of play by that stage," Murray said of his mindset entering the fifth set. "I said, ‘It's just one more set. Give everything. You don't want to come off this court with any regrets. Don't get too down on yourself. Just try and fight.’"
And he did just that muttering, ‘Come on, come on,’ to himself as the fifth began. Djokovic served first but Murray came out in control on the big points again and broke for the first time since the second set.
Djokovic continued pushing him, but this time it was Murray who displayed the spectacular defense, and pushed his lead to 3-0 with a break, winning the key points much as he had in the opening two sets.
But just like the second, he gave one break back in his next service game, hitting a slice backhand wide to let Djokovic pull to 3-1.
As Murray served the next game, he didn’t let the second set repeat itself as he rattled off one great serve after another, holding at love for 4-2 with an ace at 131 mph to move his first-serve percentage in the fifth set towards 80 percent. Djokovic gave him a chance to serve for the match then with a bunch of errors in his next service game, including hitting a backhand long to give Murray two break points and then the game with a forehand into the net.
Djokovic knew that was a crucial spot that he let get away.
"The beginning of the fifth set was the turning point," he said. "I should have not lost the two breaks in a row. After that, it was really tough to come back. After that, it was really tough to come back. And, you know, I definitely congratulate him because he came up with big serving when he needed to.
"It was unfortunate really to not be able to come up with big shots at the right time. Yeah, it forced me to go for winners or mistakes," he added.
Djokovic called the trainer to help a groin strain before Murray served for the match, but it did not take away any of the Scot’s momentum. When they were back on court, he hit a leaping backhand volley winner on the first point, then challenged an out call on his next serve, which replay confirmed was indeed an ace for 30-0. Two points later the match was his when Djokovic sent a forehand second serve return past the baseline.
Winning the Olympic gold medal was the highlight of Murray’s career a few weeks ago, but after this fortnight in Flushing Meadows, he has some new career-best memories, which he hopes are just the start of many more to come.
"The Olympics were obviously huge for me. It was the biggest week of my life. But still today before the match, when I was sitting in the locker room beforehand, like I say, there are still doubts," he said of his mindset entering the match. "You're still thinking, ‘If I lose this one, no one's ever lost their first five finals.’ I just didn't really want to be that person.
"I am just so relieved, like I said, to finally have got through and can put this one behind me and hopefully win more."