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Murray Masters Djokovic to Claim U.S. Open Title
By Erik Gudris
(September 10th, 2012) When Fred Perry won his last U.S. Open title in 1936, he didn't realize he would become the answer to one of the longest running trivia questions in tennis. Tonight, Andy Murray finally answered the questions often asked of him in previous Major finals as he claimed his first ever Grand Slam singles title in a grueling five-set battle.
Facing Novak Djokovic in the finals, Murray battled not only his opponent but the windy conditions on Arthur Ashe Stadium that had both men struggling to produce their best tennis in the first set. Djokovic was broken at love to start the match but turned around to break Murray right back in the next game. Ragged shotmaking from both men often led to dramatic rallies, including a 54-shot marathon that ended when Murray sent a forehand long.
Down 2-4, Djokovic often came to net in an attempt to counter the windy conditions and did so with great success. Djokovic pulled even with Murray and soon a tiebreak was needed to end the set that had already gone past the one hour mark.
The tiebreak itself became it's own mini 22 point adventure full of winners and also nervy play from both men who at times seemed unwilling to pull the trigger to end a rally. Murray needed six set points before Djokovic finally sent a return long to give Murray the set after 87 minutes.
Djokovic, who held a 27 match win streak in Grand Slam matches played on hard courts, went into a tailspin in the second set as he dropped four games in a row thanks to a string of errors. But serving for the set at 5-3, It was Murray who felt the pressure and committed errors of his own to allow Djokovic to pull even at 5-all.
But Djokovic couldn't keep his momentum going as at 5-6, he sent a forehand wide to give Murray the set 7-5 and with it a two sets to love lead.
If Murray hoped for a straight sets win, it wasn't meant to be as Djokovic raised his game in the third set while Murray found his own settling back into nervy errors. Djokovic upped his service and return games to break Murray early and appeared to look the fresher of the two while Murray at one time yelled out "My legs are like jelly!", Djokovic ripped through the set 6-2.
It was more of the same in the fourth as an inspired Djokovic won a cat and mouse type exchange up at net in the opening game by laying a soft drop shot winner just over Murray's side of the net. Another forehand volley winner gave Djokovic the break of serve.
But Murray dug in mid-way through the set and threatened Djokovic in several service games. A grueling 30-shot rally was finally won when Djokovic fell down on court allowing Murray to put an easy forehand winner in the open court. Djokovic eventually held serve in that game and went on to take the set 6-3, but it was a telling sign that Djokovic started to do leg lunges in-between points as a final set loomed.
After over four hours of play, the fifth set began with Murray now finding a new reserve of energy and fight. Earning a break point in the opening game, Murray sent a backhand over on the next point that just clipped the net forcing Djokovic to lunge and send his shot into the net. Now with the lead, Murray extended it with unbelievable gets in the next game and then broke Djokovic again for 3-0 lead.
Djokovic responded by breaking Murray back and pulling to within 2-3, but by now Djokovic was starting to deal with cramping. Down 2-4, Djokovic could barely serve and found himself broken for 2-5.
Djokovic called a medical time out to have a trainer attend to him, but it only delayed the inevitable as Murray quickly earned 40-0 on his next service game. Djokovic saved one match point with a forehand winner but the next point saw Djokovic overhit on his return giving Murray a 7-6(10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 victory and with it his first U.S. Open title.
At four hours and 54 minutes, the match tied the record for the longest U.S. Open final. Murray, with his title run, finally broke Perry's long held mark for a British player and caps off a glorious summer for the Scot who also won the Olympic Gold medal in singles.
"At times we made a lot of unforced errors; at times we played some great points," said Djokovic as he reflected on the match afterwards. "Two sides of the court with two different conditions, you know. Playing down the wind and against the win is a huge advantage or disadvantage the way you look at it. But it was the same for both of us. The beginning of the fifth set was the turning point. Was crucial, you know. I should have not lost the two breaks in a row. After that, it was really tough to come back."
In his press conference, Murray admitted to feeling nervous before the start of the match and also didn't want to be the man to have lost his first five Slam finals in a row.
When asked what he thought of now ending Fred Perry's streak, Murray who managed a brief smile as he held aloft the U.S. Open trophy earlier on court summed it up best, "I'm sure he's smiling from up there."
(Photo Credit: Andy Kentla)
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