Djokovic vs. Murray: Andy Murray Must Win US Open Final to Make Leap to Elite

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Djokovic vs. Murray: Andy Murray Must Win US Open Final to Make Leap to Elite
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

This is it. This is what Andy Murray needs in order to be involved in the same discussion as Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. This is his opportunity to officially establish that he is a star, that he is the next big story in tennis.

Murray has been close before.

He made it to the Wimbledon final before losing to Federer. He faced Federer in a rematch on the same court, just one month later, and took the gold medal right out from under him. People sniffed at the victory and said the Olympics didn't matter and that the Olympics aren't a Grand Slam.

It might as well have been, but that's beside the point. Murray proved something big with that win over Federer.

Prior to the U.S. Open, we already had an idea about just how good Andy Murray could be; now, to make it official, all he has to do is beat Novak Djokovic in the final.

Murray has taken a lot of heat during his career for not being able to finish the job. After finishing as the runner-up at the 2011 Australian Open, he reached four straight semifinals, a quarterfinal and a final, but never managed to close the deal.

Something has changed this summer.

Despite the fact that he still doesn't have that elusive first major, Murray has got over the hump. He beat Federer in a final, whether it was technically a Grand Slam or not. He beat Djokovic in order to get the opportunity to face Federer in the first place. He's proven he can hang in there with the best of the best. 

Lately, Murray can be considered one of the most consistent players in the sport. He reached the final at Wimbledon, the final at the Olympics and now the final at the U.S. Open.

In New York, he's been able to win in convincing fashion. He's also shown some guts, particularly in his semifinal match against Tomas Berdych, which he won 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7) in three hours and 58 minutes.

He surged back after dropping the first set. He held on. He didn't fall apart due to frustration, or due to the conditions, which were rainy and windy.

Afterward, Murray told ESPN.com:

It was brutal. 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.

The victory may have been brutal and hard-fought, but it was an important statement for Murray.

He's starting to prove, finally, that he can be included in the conversation with the top three in the game. All it will take is one win in a real final of a real major before he can turn all of that discussion into indisputable fact.

Murray has a huge opportunity to change the course of his career this week.

Finally, it seems like he's ready to take it.

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