2012 US Open: Murray’s win shows British they can be winners

Andy Murray

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There was never a guarantee that Andy Murray would win a Grand Slam singles title, as good as he was when he first arrived on tour back in 2005. Plenty of talented players have fallen short before and having to exist in an era with three all-time greats in Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic made it even more difficult for the smart and creative Scot to come through on the world’s biggest stages.

Four times he fell short in Grand Slam finals, but not on Monday at the 2012 US Open when the stars seemed to aligned for him. It had been 79 years to the day that fellow Britain Fred Perry had won his first US Championships. Murray had brought in a new coach, Ivan Lendl, who also needed five majors to win his first Slam crown.  Scotland’s most famous actor, Sean Connery came to support him, as did the famous Scottish soccer coach Sir Alex Ferguson. 

There was a palpable feeling around the US Open grounds that this was his time. Murray had declared the tournament his favorite major from the time that he won the by championships in 2004. Even though he has British mannerisms, he is a perfect fit for New York: very gritty, workmanlike and dedicated to his craft. He is resilient under fire.

After a record-tying four hours and 53 minute final, he overcame his friend and defending champion Novak Djokovic 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2. He complained of having jelly legs in the third set, but kept trying to keep them churning. He matched the world’s most admired defensive player sprint for sprint, big blow for big blow, and charge for charge. 

He was the more aggressive player for the most of the match, the cagier player, the one who was willing to try and shift his strategy when the match began to slip out of his hands.

He needed six set points to win the first set tiebreaker and even though he threw in a few errors, he kept the faith and finally boomed a 117-service winner  to win it.

He let go of a 4-0 lead in the second set and lost five of the next six games but did not mentally fade and managed to scrape out the set. 

Djokovic charged extremely hard in the third and fourth sets and looked stronger then he did and more than prepared to pull off a remarkable comeback. But Murray was advantageous early on, grabbed thee breaks and while the Serbian – who had beaten him in similarly long match in Australia 7-5 in the fifth this year—began to have groin trouble, he managed not to cramp. He served bigger, returned deeper and finally wore tennis’ bionic man down. Djokovic tried for a miracle outright forehand return of serve winner on Murray’s second match point like he successfully pulled off against Roger Federer in the semifinals last year, but it was not to be.

Murray had outplayed him, so Murray finally got to raise a big trophy.

“Even during the match you’re still questioning yourself a bit and you’re still doubting yourself a little bit,” Murray said. “I just managed to stay tough enough today and get through.”

Because Murray was so obviously talented, the pressure on him to win a major was enormous. Other British players since Perry — who before Murray was the last British male to win a major in 1936 – were also targeted as guys who had Slam winning potential and underachieved, but John Lloyd, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski were clearly not as good or as accomplished as Murray, who coming into the 2012 US Open havinh already won eight prestigious Masters Series titles as well as the gold medal at the Olympic among his 23 overall crowns.  But like them, he had been unable to win a major.

He was a week older than Djokovic and looked just as good as the he did until the Serbian went on his great 2011 run when he captured three Slams and took the No. 1 ranking. At the start of this season it appeared that Murray had fallen behind. 

And when he went to close out the match on Monday evening, there were still plenty of folks around the world who thought there was still a chance that he would fail. After all, isn’t that what some many other British players had done?

“When I was serving for the match, there’s a sense of how, how big a moment that is in British tennis history really,” Murray said. “So that obviously adds to it.  I know more than most British players, I have been asked about it many times when I got close to winning Grand Slams before.  I get asked about it more and more even after I won the Olympics.  I still got asked, ‘When are you going to win a Grand Slam? So it’s great to have finally done it, and I hope now it inspires some kids to play tennis and also takes away the notion that British tennis players choke or don’t win or it’s not a good sport.”

This is the first time since 2003 that four different men have raised Grand Slam trophies and they are all familiar names: Djokovic (Australia), Nadal (Roland Garros), Federer (Wimbledon) and Murray (US Open). Before Monday, there was constant debate as to whether Murray belonged in tennis’ so-called “Big 4,” or whether or not it was really just a “Big 3,” since he hadn’t won a Slam. That debate has noe been muted. Big 4 it is.

“I proved that I can win the Grand Slams,” Murray said. “I proved that I could last four-and-a-half hours and come out on top against one of the strongest guys physically that tennis had probably seen especially on this surface. But [I learned] to not doubt myself physically and mentally from now on. I’m sure that would have a positive impact in the future.”