When a tearful Andy Murray said that he was “getting closer” to winning his first Grand Slam title after losing to Roger Federer at the Wimbledon Finals, he actually meant it.
The 25-year old Englishman would quickly avenge his loss to Federer by beating him in straight sets at London Olympics to capture the gold medal. But, it would be the Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows that would serve as the venue for the defining moment of Murray’s career as he fulfilled an achievement of a lifetime.
Murray dethroned defending champion Novak Djokovic 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 4-6, 6-2 in an epic Finals match to capture the 2012 US Open title. The match lasted for 4 hours and 54 minutes and was also the first US Open Final that went the distance since 1988.
Coming into the match, Djokovic was leading the head-to-head series against Murray, 8-6 but in their last 13 meetings, the winner of the first set has gone on to win the match. Both players refused to give in early as the first set went into a grueling tug-of-war tiebreaker that saw the score reach 10-all. Somebody was bound to make a mistake and it was Djokovic who faltered by hitting a difficult sliding backhand that went long. That error gave Murray an 11-10 lead in the tiebreak and he would go on to take that crucial first set.
Murray took early command of the second set by leading 4-0 but Djokovic rallied to come to within a game, 6-5. It was not enough though as Murray would later on fire a crosscourt winner to take a two sets to none lead.
But, the defending champion just refused to go out quietly as he roared his way back into the match. Leading 5-2 in the third set, the Serbian forced Murray into a lob as he waited for the ball to fall close to the net, where he waited and smashed it emphatically to make it a ballgame.
Djokovic, a five-time Grand Slam champion also went on to take the fourth set, setting the stage for an unforgettable deciding fifth set.
After looking uncertain in the previous two sets, Murray finally seemed to have regained his composure, as he led Djokovic 4-2. Things would take a dramatic turn in the seventh game of the set, as Djokovic scored on a backhand winner but came up hobbling after the shot and shaking his right leg. Moments later, Djokovic’s forehand went straight to the net as he shook his right leg again. That unforced error put Murray up 5-2.
Serving for the match, so many emotions were running through Murray’s mind and as he hit the ball, Djokovic went for a forehand return, Murray chased it, saw that it was on the way out, and let it go. Murray then looked up to the sky, pumped his right fist close to his heart. His mission was complete.
After losing in his first four Grand Slam Finals matches, Murray can now finally breathe a sigh of relief. His hometown country has been longing for this moment as well for Murray’s victory ends Great Britain’s 76-year long drought of being unable to produce a Grand Slam Champion in the Singles tournament. Murray is the first British man since Fred Perry to win a Grand Slam title. Perry achieved that feat in 1936. Murray also becomes the first player in the history of the sport to win the Olympic Gold Medal and the US Open title in the same year.
“When I realized I had won, I was a little bit shocked. I was very relieved and I was very emotional,” said Murray.
And when asked about how important this victory is to him, Murray was not bashful at all with his response.
“It means the world to me. It’s what I’ve been working towards for the last ten years of my life. I’ve always wanted to try and win a Grand Slam. Having come close a few times and the disappointment of the Wimbledon Final a few months ago and to come back in the next Grand Slam and win it in a five set match against Djokovic on a hard court is unbelievable.”
The statistics can help justify how close the tennis match was. Djokovic had 7 aces while Murray had 5. Djokovic committed 65 unforced errors while Murray piled up 56. Murray got 8 out of 17 break points while Djokovic took 9 out of 18.
“I want to congratulate Andy for his first Grand Slam. He absolutely deserves it. I tried my best,” said Djokovic, who also acknowledged Murray’s continued improvement as a player.
“I think I’ve kept on improving. I’ve worked hard. Even after the tough losses. So, that’s helped. I have a very solid team around me as well,” said Murray, referring to his coaches which includes Ivan Lendl, a three-time US Open champion
For the past couple of years, Murray has been hounded and criticized for not being able to win when it matters the most. Those days are finally over.
“I’ve been reminded about that for most days of my life. So, it’s great to have finally done it. I don’t need to get asked about it anymore.”