NEW YORK – Dealing with 20 mph wind that blew a changeover chair onto the U.S. Open court on one point and yanked his hat off during another, Andy Murray navigated his way into his fifth Grand Slam final.
Now he’ll try to win his first Grand Slam title – and first for any British man in 76 years.
Adapting to the conditions far better than his opponent did, Olympic champion Murray came back to beat mistake-prone Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (7) in a rain-delayed and wind-swept U.S. Open semifinal Saturday.
“It was brutal,” Murray said about his 3-hour, 58-minute victory. “Hard to describe. You had to focus for every single point. … Some of the hardest conditions I’ve ever played in, for sure, and I come from Scotland, so that’s saying something.”
With a potentially dangerous storm expected Saturday night in Flushing Meadows, the tournament suspended play for the day while David Ferrer was leading Novak Djokovic 5-2 in the first set of their semifinal. They will complete their match today.
Saturday night’s forecast also prompted the tournament to postpone the women’s final between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka until today with the men’s final now scheduled for Monday.
The men’s final has now been moved from Sunday to Monday that past five years.
The U.S. Open is the only Grand Slam tournament that schedules two men’s semifinals on Saturday. Next year, for the first time, a day off will be inserted between the semifinals and final, either by shifting the semis to Friday or by changing the title match to Monday.
This event is the first major since the 2004 French Open with neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal in the semifinals. Federer was beaten by Berdych in the quarterfinals, while Nadal did not enter the field, sidelined by a partially torn tendon in his left knee.
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have combined to win 29 of the last 30 major titles, a stretch that began at the 2005 French Open.
The third-seeded Murray will get yet another chance to put his name on that list. The last major singles trophies for a British man were won by Fred Perry at Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships in 1936.
Murray is playing confidently after beating Federer to win a gold medal for Britain at the Olympics in August, about a month after losing to Federer in the Wimbledon final.
Before that, the Scot appeared in the final at the U.S. Open in 2008, and the Australian Open in 2010 and 2011, settling for runner-up status each time. Only one other man in tennis history was defeated in his first four major finals – Ivan Lendl, who just so happens to be Murray’s coach and was on hand Saturday.
While eliminating Federer on Wednesday, 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Berdych pounded his flat forehands right where he wanted them and made a total of 21 unforced errors in four sets.
Bothered by the swirling air Saturday, the sixth-seeded Berdych nearly eclipsed that in the opening set alone, with 19, and finished with 64 unforced errors.
Murray only made 20.
As Murray hit a serve to start the second set’s last game, his changeover chair was blown over by a gust and, like tumbleweed, rolled onto the blue court, spilling all sorts of other items, too – racket bag, white towel, etc.
A let was called, canceling the point, and both players smiled at the chaos.
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