His considerable lead, and a chance at history, slipping away, Andy Murray dug deep for stamina and mental strength, outlasting Novak Djokovic in a thrilling five-set U.S. Open final Monday.
It had been 76 years since a British man won a Grand Slam singles championship and, at least as far as Murray was concerned, it was well worth the wait.
Ending a nation’s long drought, and snapping his own four-final skid in majors, Murray finally pulled through with everything at stake on a Grand Slam stage, shrugging off defending champion Djokovic’s comeback bid to win 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2.
“Novak is so, so strong. He fights until the end in every single match,” Murray said. “I don’t know how I managed to come through in the end.”
Yes, Murray already showed he could come up big by winning the gold medal in front of a home crowd at the London Olympics last month. But this was different. This was a Grand Slam tournament, the standard universally used to measure tennis greatness — and the 287th since Britain’s Fred Perry won the 1936 U.S. Championships, as the event was known back then.
Murray vs. Djokovic was a test of will as much as skill, lasting 4 hours, 54 minutes, tying the record for longest U.S. Open final. The first-set tiebreaker’s 22 points set a tournament mark. They repeatedly produced fantastic, tales-in-themselves points, lasting 10, 20, 30, even 55 — yes, 55! — strokes, counting the serve. The crowd gave a standing ovation to salute one majestic, 30-stroke point in the fourth set that ended with Murray’s forehand winner as Djokovic fell to the court, slamming on his left side.
By the end, Djokovic — who had won eight consecutive five-set matches, including in the semifinals (against Murray) and final (against Rafael Nadal) at the Australian Open in January — was the one looking fragile, trying to catch breathers and doing deep knee bends at the baseline to stretch his aching groin muscles. After getting broken to trail 5-2 in the fifth, Djokovic had his legs massaged by a trainer.
“I really tried my best,” Serbia’s Djokovic said.
No one had blown a two-set lead in the U.S. Open title match since 1949, and Murray was determined not to claim that distinction.
When Djokovic sent a forehand long on the final point, Murray crouched and covered his mouth with both hands, as though even he could not believe this moment had actually arrived.