The wait is over: Andy Murray wins US Open to claim first Grand Slam victory
Andy Murray achieved his lifetime’s ambition at Flushing Meadows last night when he won the US Open.
The 25-year-old Scot put past disappointments behind him to win a Grand Slam final at the fifth attempt, defeated defending champion Novak Djokovic 7-6 (12/10) 7-5 2-6 3-6 6-2.
It was somehow fitting that the match was a rollercoaster, mirroring the journey Murray has taken to get here, as at once stage he looked poised to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The 25-year-old said: "It was an incredibly tough match and obviously it felt great at the end. Relief is probably the best word I would use to describe how I'm feeling just now.
"I'm very, very happy that I managed to come through because if I had lost this one from two sets up, that would have been a tough one to take.
"I was still doubting myself right up to a few minutes before going on to play the match. It's something I have never done before. I have been in this position many times and not managed to get through.
"I am just so relieved to finally have got there and I can put this one behind me and hopefully win more.
"I think just proving to myself is probably the most pleasing part about tonight, because there were times when I didn't know if I was going to be able to do it."
It was a match that really had everything. In windy conditions, Murray was twice a break up in the opening set before finally clinching it on his sixth set point.
He then let a 4-0 lead slip away in the second but still came out on top to move to within one set of victory against a man who had not lost a grand slam match on a hard court for two years.
But Djokovic was not about to give up his crown without a fight and, as Murray got nervous, the Serb upped his game, drawing level and carrying the momentum into the fifth set.
The start of the decider was crucial and a little surprisingly it was Djokovic who faltered, trailing 3-0 and then giving away another break to leave Murray one game away.
The Serb was struggling physically, understandably after almost five hours, and he was booed by the raucous crowd as he took a medical timeout.
But Murray did not waver, setting up three match points and taking the second when Djokovic fired a make-or-break return long.
The victory came nine weeks after Murray cried on Centre Court following his loss to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final and four weeks after he gained revenge over the world number one on the same court to win Olympic gold.
Murray became the first man to win both the Olympic singles title and the US Open in the same year, and he did not allow thoughts of his previous disappointments to creep in even when the third and fourth sets had slipped away.
He said: "I went to the toilet after the fourth set and just had a think and said, 'It's just one more set. Give everything. You don't want to come off this court with any regrets. Don't get too down on yourself. Just try and fight'.
"I got a bit fortunate to get the break at the beginning of the set, and that helped."
While Murray tried to take in his achievement, his friends and family and the team he has worked with for most of his professional career cried and hugged each other.
It famously takes a lot to make the Scot smile in public, and even winning a first grand slam title did not have him beaming from ear to ear, for which he jokingly blamed coach Ivan Lendl, nicknamed Stoneface during his playing days for his lack of emotion.
Murray said: "I think everyone is just in a little bit of shock that it's happened. I've seen my mum after I have lost in slam finals and stuff, and she's been really upset.
"Everyone is really, really happy, I think we're sort of learning from Lendl a little bit.
"I saw all of the guys in the locker room afterwards and I saw him. He just said, 'I'm proud of you, well done.' We had a hug. Then someone sprayed champagne all down my back and over him. That kind of ended that. He started swearing."
Murray hired Lendl at the end of last year in the hope it would give him that extra edge to turn him into a grand slam champion, and he joined the 52-year-old in winning a slam title at the fifth attempt.
There have been technical improvements, most noticeably his forehand and second serve, but the main difference has been the mental steel and belief that Lendl appears to have instilled in his charge.
"I have enjoyed working with him," said Murray. "I have listened to him a lot. He's definitely, definitely helped. Having him in your corner for any player would be a big bonus.
"Not many guys who have won as much as he did want to go into coaching or want to be around tennis.
"I'm sure it gave a little boost to his ego tonight that I won. It's been great so far and I hope we can keep working well together."
As well as ending a long personal wait, Murray's triumph also finally put to bed the 76-year reign of Fred Perry as Britain's last male grand slam singles champion.
By coincidence, or perhaps fate, it was 79 years to the day since Perry won the first of his titles, at the US Open, in a match where the third seed beat the second seed.
Barely a press conference has gone by when Murray was not asked about carrying the weight of history, and he was happy to finally be rid of "that stupid question".
He did admit, though, that it had entered his head on court, saying: "When you're on the court, you don't necessarily feel it, but I know when I was serving for the match, there's a sense of how big a moment that is in British tennis history.
"So that obviously adds to it. I have been asked about it many times when I got close to winning grand slams before. I got asked about it more and more even after I won the Olympics.
"So it's great to have finally done it, and I hope now it inspires some kids to play tennis and also takes away the notion that British tennis players choke or don't win or it's not a good sport."
He added of Perry, who died in 1995: "I'm sure he's smiling from up there that someone has finally managed to do it from Britain. I hope I can see another British player in my lifetime win a grand slam."
London Evening Standard
at 12:09 pm