Who knows whether it was a set of historical coincidences, the temperamental New York weather or just, at long last, it was finally Andy Murray's time. Whatever the case, Murray ended British tennis' 76-year drought without a men's Grand Slam tennis championship on Monday, a curse that didn't have the hype of a Bambino but whose passing was greeted with sheer delight in the United Kingdom.
Novak Djokovic in an epic five-set match (7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2) at Flushing Meadows in conditions made unpredictable by the wind swirling around the Big Apple.Murray, in danger of becoming modern tennis' nearly-man after four previous defeats in major finals, outlasted defending champion
Yet, while the 25-year-old from Scotland certainly adapted better than his Serbian opponent, those who believe in fate will surely be unable to resist alluding to a series of factors that made this victory seem as if it was written in the stars.
Ever since Murray emerged five years ago as a player who could regularly mix it with the best in the world, he has, in effect, been chasing Fred Perry. Perry, the enigmatic star of the courts in the 1930s when prize money was banned and players wore long pants, was the last Brit to win a Slam before turning pro and going on to found a sportswear empire.
Perry won eight majors, the last being the 1936 U.S. Open. His first major title came at the U.S. Open three years earlier on Sept. 10, 1933.
Murray's first title also came on Sept. 10, at the U.S. Open, his on the heels of winning Olympic gold last month in London.
To add further fuel to a coincidental fire, this year marks the Diamond Jubilee of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. The last Brit to win a Grand Slam came when Virginia Wade won the Wimbledon women's crown in 1977 – the year of the Queen's Silver Jubilee (25 years as monarch).
It was the positive vibes created by Murray's Olympic title, combined with the injury-enforced absence of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer's surprise quarterfinal exit, that led some to speculate that Murray may never get a better opportunity than this one.
His four finals appearances prior to this one had yielded only a single set victory, the opener against Federer in this year's Wimbledon final, and a strong start was vital here if he was to get a foothold against a favored Djokovic, who was nursing a 27-match winning streak in Slam matches held on hard courts.
Murray broke in the first game but the advantage of service was somewhat negated by both the wind and the excellence of these two as returners. The Brit squeaked through a record tiebreaker – Murray won 12-10, the longest tiebreak in a men's title match in the tournament's history – to raise genuine hope back home, where millions surely tuned in deep into the night.
Murray faces enormous pressure in Britain, what with the screaming tabloids and that historical barren run to cope with. He even had the eyes of two of Scotland's most famous sons watching him in Flushing: James Bond legend Sean Connery and Manchester United soccer coach Sir Alex Ferguson.
Seemingly unfazed by either the occasion or the attention, Murray began the second set brilliantly, storming to a 4-0 and 5-1 lead. But then Djokovic showed the sort of heights he has regularly attained over the past couple of years in becoming the most regular Slam champion during that time.
He broke back once, then again to level it at 5-5, then started to make inroads into the Murray serve once more. Murray dug deep, though, holding his serve and then breaking Djokovic again courtesy of a surprising muffed smash from the world No.2.
It looked as if Murray's relaxed approach was working. He prepared on Sunday night by watching "Wedding Crashers" and playing Scrabble, and showed none of the nerves from his other finals appearances.
Djokovic was not going away, though, and after breaking early in the third was gratified to see his groundstrokes settling into their usual rhythm. He took the set 6-2 and, despite still trailing, had momentum firmly with him.
A break to start the fourth tilted things into Djokovic's favor again and with his serve now firing, the reigning champ was full of flair and confidence. Fist-pumping and firing up the crowd, Djokovic had no intention of surrendering meekly and pushed the contest into a deciding fifth set.
The fifth was a tussle but it was Murray's tussle. He raced into a 3-0 lead and although Djokovic broke right back, it was Murray who had the greater will on this occasion as his destiny approached, nearly five hours after the match started.
He broke for the third time in the set to lead 5-2, then closed it out with a flawless service game.
At last, after all the waiting, all the disappointment and all that weight of history, the curse was lifted and a new champion was crowned.
"It's the best feeling for me," Murray told the television audience. "After the tough loss at Wimbledon to have have won the Olympics and now here is amazing.
"I got asked about it a lot, most weeks to be honest, why I hadn't won a grand slam," he continued. "Was it a mental thing? Was it to my tennis? It was probably a combination of a few things. I was competing against great, great players as well. I doubted it a little bit, but so happy that I managed to get through."
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