All four majors of the 2014 season came and went, and Andy Murray was left empty-handed. Murray is no stranger to winning on big stages. He earned an Olympic gold medal and U.S. Open title in 2012, and a Wimbledon title in 2013. Unfortunately, this year just didn't pan out for him.
Murray's year included a quarterfinal loss to Roger Federer in the Australian Open, a semifinal loss to Rafael Nadal in the French Open, a quarterfinal loss to Grigor Dimitrov at Wimbledon and, most recently, a quarterfinal loss to Novak Djokovic in the U.S. Open.
The world No. 9 was defeated handily by his opponents in the first three Slams. Federer won in four sets, but he didn't drop more than four games during the three sets he won. Against Nadal and Dmitrov, Murray simply didn't look like he stood a chance out of the gate and was defeated in consecutive sets.
While his fourth Slam of the year ended in another loss, Murray's performance at the U.S. Open provides reason to believe he'll have a high level of confidence against top seeds going forward.
Djovokic was lights-out in his first four contests in New York. He didn't drop a single set along the way and only gave up more than four games in any set just once. That all changed drastically with Murray on the opposite side of the court.
Murray kept up with the world No. 1 through the first set, coming back nicely after falling behind early. This forced Djokovic into his first tiebreak of the tournament. Murray didn't play well in that situation, but he remained resilient despite heading into the second set down 0-1.
Finding himself in the same situation in the second set, Murray continued to fight. The situation resembled the same old story from his previous majors earlier in the year, but he got back into the mix thanks to a devastating forehand, this time playing a fantastic tiebreak and taking the set.
The U.S. Open's Twitter account marveled at Murray's forehand:
US Open Tennis @usopen
#AndyMurray's forehand is bringing the heat! #usopen http://t.co/YM8VFuBe6j9/4/2014, 4:07:12 AM
In sets three and four, Murray seemed exhausted. He tightened up, his movement was obviously impaired, and his serve lost plenty of its velocity. From there, unforced errors became a problem, and Djokovic was able to claim the victory.
Still, Murray kept up nicely with Djokovic in several major categories:
|Murray vs. Djokovic in 2014 U.S. Open Quarterfinal|
|Player||Aces||1st-Serve Pts||2nd-Serve Pts||Receiving Pts||Errors||Winners|
Murray spoke about how his performance will affect his confidence against top seeds during a press conference, via USOpen.org, after the match:
Yeah, I mean, I played well. I mean, especially the first couple of sets was some good tennis. I played a poor tiebreak in the first set definitely. I didn't play a very good tiebreak. Yeah, I was down in the first set and I fought back. I was down in the second set and a break and I fought back. So, you know, I fought hard. I played some good tennis. But, yeah, it wasn't enough.
It may not have been enough, but it was certainly a huge step forward for Murray. This was clearly his best performance against a top seed in a major this year, and also taking into consideration his consecutive-set victory against No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Round 4, he has plenty to build upon in the future.
While the year didn't exactly go as Murray would have liked, it ended with a match that will provide a promising outlook for the remainder of the year and into next season. After his showing in the U.S. Open, Murray has significant momentum on his side—something he didn't have one year ago after this major ended in an upset by Stan Wawrinka in three sets in the quarterfinals.
Expect to see significant strides made by the world. No. 9 in short order.