NEW YORK – 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, nearly five-hour U.S. Open men’s final Monday.
It had been 76 years since a British man won a Grand Slam singles championship and, at least for Murray, 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.
“Relief is probably the best word I would use to describe how I’m feeling just now,” Murray said, adding: “You do think: Is it ever going to happen?”
Yes, Murray already had 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.
“He deserved to win this Grand Slam more than anybody,” Djokovic said of Murray, who will rise to No. 3 in the rankings behind No. 1 Roger Federer and No. 2 Djokovic.
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.
“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.”
But as the finish approached, 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.