By Romi Cvitkovic
The Men’s Final of the U.S. Open Monday evening between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray had it all. Wind, massive fistpumps, chokes, 54-plus shot rallies, deft net play, the best movement in tennis and, of course, a five set and nearly five hour battle on Arthur Ashe Stadium. (For video of match point and the trophy ceremony, see at bottom.)
The two finalists, who have known each other since they were eleven-years-old, put on a show much of the tennis world will not soon forget. Each player knew the other’s game possibly better than they know their own, and they tested each other to the limit.
At this moment in time, tennis forgot who Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were.
It was just Djokovic and Murray, at the top of the game and with millions of fans waiting to see if Murray would win his first Slam or Djokovic defend his title.
Amidst 18mph winds at the beginning of the match, Murray took the first set in 87 minutes on a hotly-contested 12-10 tiebreak game that alone took 24 minutes. Murray kept momentum through 5-1 in the second set, before Djokovic kicked it into gear and came back nearly forcing another tiebreak. Murray took the second set 7-5, but Djokovic came out swinging in the third and fourth sets as Murray’s legs began to turn into “jelly” – as shouted by Murray himself numerous times.
As the match progressed into the four-hour mark, instead of the players fumbling with their energy levels, the pace and shot-making increased in quality. When Murray lost the third set, instead of wallowing and reverting back to his counter-punching ways, he stepped it up forcing Djokovic into the corners. Although Djokovic took the fourth set, it didn’t do much to demoralize Murray.
By the fifth set, both players were battling not only each other, but the clock, their own bodies, cramps, and their mental strength. Gone were the fistpumps, yelling and arguing as each player was saving every last bit of energy for the rallies. But the adrenaline rushed in for Murray, as two netted Djokovic forehands gave him a double-break to go up 3-0.
The tennis stayed clean, with Murray acing and holding at love to go up 4-2, then breaking a cramping Djokovic to serve for the championship match and his first Slam. And he did it on his own terms, 7-6(12), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2.
As he covered his face with his hands in disbelief upon realizing he had won his first Slam, it was clear this moment was a long time coming for Murray and his team. It’s just unfortunate that CBS didn’t seem to understand the greatness of the moment as they cut his trophy speech short. Given his heartfelt and emotional Wimbledon runner-up and Olympic gold medal speeches, the US Open victory was sure to be as memorable. But we’ll never know.
But one thing I do know is, it’s Andy’s time. No more self-doubt. No longer the greatest active player without a Slam. No longer an underachieving workaholic. No more yelling at himself. Well, maybe that last one will always be there.
World, I would like to introduce you to tennis’ newest Slam champion, Andy Murray.
My. I was getting worried I would never be able to type that out …
Until next year, New York — the city where dreams are truly made.