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On This Day in US Open History: Sept.10, 2012

Andy Murray won his first major title at the 2012 US Open.
Sunday, September 10, 2017

Boosters of Great Britain's unswerving Andy Murray had long believed it would be just a matter of time before he would come through to win his first major title. They had maintained he had both the talent and temerity to realize that lofty goal.

They were certain he was destined to become a member of the elite club who had established themselves as major champions. Murray had suffered some hard knocks along the way to a final round meeting on this day against defending champion Novak Djokovic.

In 2008 at the US Open, Murray fell short in his first Grand Slam tournament final, falling against Roger Federer in straight sets. Federer thus took the title for the fifth year in a row, something no other man had done in the Open Era.

In 2010, Federer handled Murray again in the final of the Australian Open, and then in 2011 Djokovic routed Murray in the title round contest back in Melbourne. Finally, Federer ousted Murray in the final of the 2012 Wimbledon.

And so Murray took the court for this 2012 US Open final having lost all four of his major final appearances. Yet he was bolstered by having had Ivan Lendl by his side during the year. The three-time US Open champion had also lost his first four major finals before moving past that barrier and securing eight Grand Slam championships.

Murray took much solace from having Lendl in his corner because no one understood his plight more genuinely.

There was another factor working in Murray's favor. Earlier in the summer he had toppled Federer in the final of the Olympic Games, which many looked at as unofficially a fifth major.

Murray and Djokovic played their final under the worst possible conditions, with a ferocious wind swirling and blowing across Arthur Ashe Stadium. These capricious conditions definitely suited Murray much more than Djokovic, who has frequently suffered under those kinds of circumstances.

Murray had long prided himself on his masterful ball control, flexibility, sliced backhand changes of pace, and creativity under duress. Djokovic clearly felt more compromised when the wind was reeking havoc on the proceedings.

Interestingly, in light of where they stand right now in their career head to head series – Djokovic holds a commanding 25-11 lead – the Serbian was ahead by only eight matches to six as the two players walked on court for the 2012 US Open final. Significantly, only once had the player winning the first set in this series not gone on to victory.

The first set was contested furiously on both sides of the net. In this predominantly baseline waged battle, Murray was ahead 4-2 before Djokovic retaliated for 4-4. They both held to set up a critical tiebreak, and Djokovic had 5-3 in that sequence. But a resolute Murray took the next three points. He would advance to set point five times, only to be denied by Djokovic in every instance.

But on his sixth set point, Murray converted. A excellent first serve that Djokovic could not get back into play sealed the set for the British warrior. After and hour and 27 minutes, after prevailing 12-10 in a tiebreak. Murray was out in front one set to love.

Murray soared to 4-0 in the second set, sweeping 16 of 20 points in the process. Djokovic refused to give up. Improbably, he battled back to 5-5. That gallant comeback was wasted. Murray took the next two games to reach two sets to love.

But Djokovic found his range convincingly to take the third set at the cost of only two games. Djokovic kept firing away freely through the fourth set, breaking in the opening game with a forehand drop shot winner followed by a backhand volley winner. He broke again with Murray serving at 3-5.

It was two sets all, and Djokovic was clearly outperforming Murray from the backcourt. He was hitting through the court so persuasively that victory seemed to be only right around the corner.

And yet, momentum can be halted instantaneously, and that was the case now.

Serving in the first game of the fifth set, down 30-40, Djokovic was just plain unlucky as a backhand slice from Murray clipped the net cord and disrupted his opponent's rhythm sorely. Djokovic erred on a backhand because his timing was ruined.

Murray was reinvigorated.

He broke again for 3-0 before Djokovic struck back boldly to win the next two games. But Murray met this crucial moment majestically, holding at love for 4-2 without missing a first serve, closing that game with an ace out wide at 131 mph.

Djokovic had run out of resources. He won only two more points. Murray succeeded 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 in four hours and 54 minutes. The stirring encounter tied the record for the longest recorded US Open final with the 1988 duel between Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl.

Murray stood there incredulously for a long moment, trying to let the triumph sink into his system.

In the press room a short time later, he said, "Mentally it was very challenging. Aside from it being a Slam final, and having not won one before, it was an incredibly tough match. Relief is probably the best word for how I'm feeling right now...Had I lost this one from two sets up that would have been a tough one to take."

In the end, Murray was entirely worthy of the high honor he had earned by becoming the first British man to rule at the U.S. Championships/US Open since Fred Perry claimed the title 76 years earlier.

On his fifth attempt in a final at a Grand Slam final, four years after his first final at the US Open, after so many years of supreme dedication to his craft, Murray had realized a lifelong dream. He could not have asked for more than that.