It seems hard to comprehend and utter the words, even write them down. Andy Murray, US Open Champion, Grand Slam champion. It took four previous Grand Slam final failures, three against Roger Federer and one against Novak Djokovic to get the 25 year old Brit to where he is. It might have taken longer than anticipated, but there’s no doubt he finally earned to be ranked among the world’s top 4.
Somehow, the weather, windy and terrible through the first two sets, seemed only to affect Novak Djokovic. Struggling to set his feet straight, he twisted with every baseline shot, grunting even louder than usual to disrupt Murray and to show us how hard he was trying. He struggled with his slice backhand which Murray kept turning to, as the Nole was simply afraid to hit risky forehand shots that worked very well for him in later sets. Murray is better at playing long rallies and not taking risks, eventually taking the first two sets 7-6, 7-5.
Then something happened. The wind stopped, and Djokovic rallied everything inside of him that makes him such an impossible opponent in best-of-five matches, crushing Murray in the third set 6-2. Time to worry? Not on this occasion. Murray did stop playing well for a set and a bit, but he never seemed to be losing his grip on his nerves and cool. No tantrums, broken rackets or profanity. Well, at least not more than when he was doing well.
Djokovic won the fourth set as well (6-3), but it was a much closer one, with Murray growing stronger with every point. He already showed hsi ability to come back in the first sat, rallying from 3-5 behind in the tiebreak to win it. Novak Djokovic was getting tired and cramped up, while Murray kept playing his game, while keeping his leg on the gas, something he said was a problem for him in previous finals and famous losses to the big three.
A 3-0 start was countered by two games from Novak, but that was where it ended for the Serb. Too much pain to fight through, while Murray kept playing like 5 hours is nothing for him. Djokovic simply blasted away with everything he had, the ball landing out each and every time until the very end.
It was more than just Murray’s triumph. It was the final of the future, which already happened once, in 2011, Melbourne. Roger Federer won’t be here forever; Rafael Nadal’s return isn’t coming in 2012 and we don’t know what kind of shape he’ll be in after yet another long absence from the courts. Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are of the exact age, and are clearly a level above the rest of the field – Berdych, Ferrer, Tsonga and Del Potro when it comes to performing in Grand Slam tournaments.
And still, Murray deserves a bit more insight. The great mental block was removed at Wimbledon. Not the Grand Slam tournament, but the Olympic games. A best of three-tournament, but more than a Masters, which felt like more than a Masters, with Roger Federer waiting in the final. Maybe it wasn’t as important for the rest of the tour as it was for Murray, but it was he who needed the change, not the rest of the playing field.
He stumbled in Cincinnati, but he was just honing his hands towards the big show. Novak Djokovic looking solid but no longer unbeatable, while Roger Federer came in as the favorite, falling to a player that always troubles him, Tomas Berdych. Murray fell behind against the Czech as well, but a different Murray emerged in these two weeks at Queens. Resilient, determined, focused, unmovable. The tennis was always there, but the work with Ivan Lendl has finally paid off. Next time we’ll be at a Grand Slam tournament, don’t be surprised seeing Murray heading in as the favorite.