Andy Murray made tennis history Monday night at the U.S. Open by becoming the first British man in 76 years to win a Grand Slam. His five-set victory over Novak Djokovic was not simply a milestone for British tennis and Andy Murray. This victory adds another layer of complexity into what has become a highly interesting and ultra-competitive ATP tour.
Murray Changes The Equation
Before this U.S. Open, there had been only one man (Juan Martin Del Potro at the U.S. Open in 2009) who had won a Grand Slam since 2005 besides Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal. With Andy Murray now playing championship-level tennis (at least on a hardcourt), that complicates the picture going forward and actually sets up a potentially even more exciting 2013 season. With this title, Murray also leapfrogs Nadal in the standings to world No. 3.
The best thing about how Murray won was that Djokovic played really well against him. Had Murray swept him in straight sets, a case could be made for a down day by Djokovic (a case that some tried to make after his loss to Federer in the Wimbledon semi-finals). However, Djokovic fought back hard and evened the match at two sets apiece to set up a highly dramatic fifth set. Murray, however, found the courage and strength to continue playing his best and found a way to break Djokovic twice in the final set. Those breaks ultimately paved the way for a somewhat dominating fifth set 6-2 victory. For Murray to not fold in the face of a hard-charging Djokovic speaks volumes in how much Murray has grown as a player over the past year.
Murray Did A Djokovic
Murray clearly has always had this level of play in him, but it just took a little longer than many expected to get it out. Having a coach like Ivan Lendl obviously gave him a great boost in confidence, but something really changed inside Murray's mind to make him a champion. He seemed like he finally believed he could win. He looked like it at the Australian Open but couldn't defeat Djokovic then in another five-set marathon match. When Murray reached the final at Wimbledon, the court conditions suited Federer so well that no one could have beaten him on that day.
The U.S. Open seemed like the most likely spot for Murray (who plays his best on hardcourt surfaces) to finally capture his first Grand Slam title, but it was anything but easy Monday night. With the swirling winds this year in New York City, neither player could really play exactly like he wanted. However, it was the defending champion, Djokovic, who seemed to stress more from the weather conditions. Murray, as he did on Saturday in the semi-finals, didn't seem to let the winds bother him. He may have more experience playing in poor weather conditions due to his Scottish upbringing, but he has somewhere, somehow found a way to control his emotions and become mentally tougher.
It was almost two years ago when Djokovic elevated his play from perennial also-ran to top player in the world by finally believing he could win after he controlled his mental approach to the game. From there, he improved his fitness and started staying aggressive throughout matches and that made all the difference. That's exactly what Murray has done now. I see no reason why Murray can't come back next season and win another Grand Slam (Australian Open seems most likely) or even two. 2013 can't come soon enough for this tennis fan.
Julie is a featured tennis contributor for the Yahoo Contributor Network. She has followed and loved tennis all her life. She is simply amazed that Andy Murray has finally won a Grand Slam.