Andy Murray officially became a member of men's tennis' big four with his first Grand Slam title at the 2012 U.S. Open
Andy Murray’s five-set victory over Novak Djokovic to win the 2012 U.S. Open men’s singles title was one for the ages. The four-hour, 54-minute affair—tied for the longest final in the history of the Open—was full of terrific moments.
As entertaining as the match was to watch, Murray’s first major title will be remembered for what it represented as well as the tremendous on-court play.
Tennis fans have four months before the next Grand Slam event to contemplate what Murray’s victory means for his career and for the future of men’s tennis. Here are a few of the best moments from Monday’s final that will keep people talking through the beginning of the 2013 Australian Open in January.
Murray proved to be the fitter of the two men's finalist in dominating the the U.S. Open's fifth set.
What better way for Andy Murray to win his first major championship then by beating his oldest and toughest rival in a five-set match of historic length?
Djokovic kept Murray out of the Australian Open final with a five-set, semifinal victory last January. So it’s fitting that Murray would return the favor at Flushing Meadows while upending the defending champion.
Murray was clearly the more fit player in the end, after Djokovic rallied from two sets down to force the decisive set. By the time the fifth set got underway, the contrast in the players' physical fitness was as telling as the 6-2 final score.
Djokovic's legs began to cramp during the final set, allowing Murray to finish him off in a rather easy and anticlimactic fashion. Djokovic's breakdown was unfortunate. But give Murray credit for finishing him off when he sensed that fatigue was kicking in.
This won't be the last time that Djokovic and Murray meet in a Grand Slam final.
Murray and Djokovic have been competing since their preteen years on the junior circuit in Europe. The U.S. Open final was the 15th meeting of their professional careers (dating back to 2006) with Djokovic now holding a narrow 8-7 edge.
This was only the third Grand Slam showdown between the two, including the last two Australian Opens. But the stakes were incredibly high for Murray, who was seeking to avoid his fifth straight loss in the final of a major to start his career.
Aside from Murray slaying his personal demons, there was the very real prospect that Djokovic—just seven days older than Murray and already a five-time Grand Slam winner—would be the primary obstacle preventing him from ever winning a Grand Slam title.
As the two youngest members of tennis’ Big Four (including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal), these two will directly compete for more majors over the next few years. Now that he's beaten Djokovic in both the London Olympics and the U.S. Open final, Murray has the the titles to prove that he can beat the world’s best on the biggest stages.
Murray's game has taken off since linking up with eight-time Grand Slam winner Ivan Lendl.
If you’re a fan of tennis history, then you have to appreciate the storybook nature of Murray’s win.
First, there was the oddity of Murray winning the U.S. Open on the same date (September 10) that Fred Perry—the last British man to win a Grand Slam singles title—won the title in 1936.
While that’s an interesting parallel that the English will surely appreciate, the connection with Murray’s coach, Ivan Lendl, had to be more personally rewarding for the first-time major champion.
The two began working together shortly before the start of the 2012 ATP season. The move was intended to help Murray become a more aggressive player and finally get him over the major championship hump.
Lendl also lost his first four appearances in Grand Slam finals before finally breaking through in the 1984 French Open. He defeated John McEnroe in, you guessed it, five sets to earn the victory.
Lendl ended his career with eight Grand Slam singles titles to his name. With his first win under his belt, Murray will be looking to exceed the total of his new mentor.
Tennis fans from around the world could feel the weight being lifted from Murray's shoulders as his U.S. Open victory began to set in.
Defeating Djokovic in the U.S. Open final was particularly significant for Murray given their long, competitive history. But the victory's significance is more directly tied to what it represents than whom it came against.
Murray and Djokovic have had a very close match history. That fact, combined with Murray’s victory in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympic Games, had to leave him with a fair amount of confidence entering yesterday’s battle.
It may have been Djokovic physically opposing him on the court, but Murray was also fighting a second, much tougher opponent in his own self-doubt.
Those four previous losses in Grand Slam finals—one to Djokovic in the 2011 Australian Open and three losses to Federer, including this summer’s crushing defeat at Wimbledon—were on everyone’s mind, including Murray’s.
There was also the unique pressure that Murray felt as the pride of England. He’s been on a career-long quest to become the first British man to win a Major since Perry's victory 76 years ago.
He was clearly eager to win one for the queen and finally end the speculation surrounding his ability to win a Major.
Murray has never shied away from sharing the disappointment from his losses with the viewing public. In fact, that emotional honesty is a major part of his allure.
It was easy, then, to appreciate the tears of joy that he shed once the reality of the U.S. Open victory finally hit him. Andy Murray has finally arrived and the tennis world couldn’t be happier to welcome him to the party.
Murray's U.S. Open victory should be the first of many Major titles for the 25-year-old Brit.
Murray has finally captured the major title that eluded him since he first fell to Federer in the U.S. Open final four years ago. It will be fascinating to see whether the victory propels him into the elite company of multiple Grand Slam winners shared by Djokovic, Federer and Nadal.
With so few elite players at the top of the pyramid, fans of men’s tennis have anxiously awaited Murray’s official arrival as one of the sports heavyweights.
Yesterday’s U.S. Open win now puts him in that category. Murray joins Juan Martin del Potro as only the second man outside of the Djokovic-Federer-Nadal triumvirate to win a Grand Slam singles title in the last 31 events.
Federer is still No. 1 in the ATP World Rankings and Djokovic has the most victories on tour this year. But Murray defeated them both in London on his way to the gold medal, and he beat Djokovic again in yesterday’s championship match.
That might be enough to earn him the ATP Player of the Year award.
Nadal continues to battle chronic knee problems, Federer is on the wrong side of 30 and del Potro has failed to build on his 2009 U.S. Open victory. That leaves Murray in a great position to take over as the new king of men’s tennis.