Tuesday, 11 September 2012

New York, New York

At the fifth attempt, Andy Murray has finally cast aside the shadow of British male failure in Grand Slams. It only took 76 years. My own grandmother had only been alive for two years at the time of Fred Perry's Wimbledon success.

What was most impressive of all was the plucky Scot's mental fortitude throughout his epic five-set win over Novak Djokovic in the US Open final. When the Serb broke serve at the start of the fourth set, many would surely have predicted more British heartbreak, as the momentum had undoubtedly shifted. Where once Djokvoic had been ailing, he was now prospering and sensing blood with each powerful groundstroke.

Yet somehow Murray prevailed. You got the sense that with the match back in the balance the Brit lost his nerves. Those nerves had undoubtedly been present at 4-0 up in the second set, where he somehow contrived to allow Djokovic a double break-back. But also present in that second set was the guts and drive to drag himself over the line and take it 7-5. That pattern was to be repeated as a two-set lead became the most gut-wrenching of victories. If the win over Federer at the Olympics was a walk in the park, this was a swim against the mightiest of tides, as the Serb world number two is a fearsome competitor who never gave up.

A key part of Murray's undoubtedly personal triumph was the recognition that he couldn't do it alone. That he lacked the ruthlessness and self-confidence to go that one step further. Step forward Mr Ivan Lendl. Widely thought of as a shrewd move at the time of his appointment, the Czech legend added the extra 1% that was missing to Murray's already world-class game, and you wouldn't argue if his name was etched in very small print onto this year's US Open trophy.

So where to go from here? Well, repeated Grand Slam glory will have to wait until 2013, and the Australian Open in Adelaide. But before that Murray will want to put down a real marker at the season ending ATP Championships in London. He is yet to win one of these - should he do so it would undoubtedly be classed as Murray's 2012. With the following Grand Slam record - one win, one final, one semi-final and one quarter-final - coupled with Olympic Gold, we may yet see a dominance to rival that of Djokovic in 2011.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to catch up on my sleep. Well done Andy, you've finally silenced your critics.

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