Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2012 US OPEN: Andy Murray Wins 1st Major Title

As I predicted, Andy Murray won his first grand slam title at the US Open on Monday night by defeating defending champion Novak Djokovic in a brilliant slugfest which lasted nearly 5 hours 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2. By winning his first major final in 5 attempts, the British player became the first person from his country to win a major title since Fred Perry did it in 1936. Murray is the second man after Juan Martin del Potro did it at the 2009 US Open to win a major singles tennis title other than Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic since the 2005 Australian Open.

Many tennis watchers thought that Murray would never win a major but I was not among them. Murray was simply too good. He has a decent head-to-head record against both Federer (9 wins 8 losses) and Djokovic (7 wins 8 losses) but not Nadal (5 wins 13 losses). Murray and his new coach Ivan Lendl both famously lost the first 4 major finals they played but Djokovic has also lost 4 finals, including 3 in New York (2007 US Open to Federer, 2010 US Open to Nadal and now 2012 US Open to Murray) and 1 in Paris (2012 Roland Garros to Nadal). However, Djokovic has now won 5 major titles, which is 4 more than his rival who is only one week older. Lendl went on to win 8 major titles, and eventually appeared in 8 consecutive US Open finals (1982-1989).

The match ended up being even more dramatic than we expected, better than the instant classic they played in the 2012 Australian Open semifinal, but still eclipsed by the nearly 6 hour final won by Djokovic over Nadal in the 2012 Australian Open final for best match of the year. Like that match, there were more errors than winners hit by both players, but the winner-error differential does not tell the entire story. First you have to start with the first set which was 87 minutes long (about how much time it has taken Roger Federer to win some of his 17 major finals), finally won by Murray in an astonishing 22-point tiebreak after the Brit led by a break for most of the set. Secondly you have to consider the insanely long rallies one of which went to 54 strokes in the first set. Thirdly, you have to acknowledge the inherent drama and suspense of the match. After Murray was able to pull out the second set despite blowing a 2-break 4-0 leave in that set, everyone expected the match to be over soon. But somehow, magically, the defending champion was able to raise his level of play in the next two sets and win them relatively easily 6-2 and 6-3, seemingly breaking Murray at will. So, now they would play for  a 5th set for all the marbles and then there was another twist: the indefatigable Serb's body started to fail him and he started cramping. Murray was able to break Djokovic early in the set, consolidate the break, nurse it and then finally earn and insurance break and then serve out the match for his very first title.

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