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World Group – semifinals Gijon (clay): Spain – USA 3:1 Rafael Nadal announced before the US Open that he would come back at this semifinal tie. He skipped it though, and it’s tough to say when he might play first … Continue reading
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He was the next big thing in American tennis after a decline of “golden generation” born in the early 70s. His emergence onto the tennis scene was thundering, as soon as he appeared in the ATP ranking (2000) he was … Continue reading
“Now they are starting at 15 and burnt out at 24” said Jimmy Connors on the upcoming generation of American players. It was a tournament marked by a tennis torch that passed from one generation to another: 16-year-old Michael Chang and two years older Andre Agassi made their biggest results at the time, fourth round and semifinal respectively. The statement about burning out paradoxically was not correct to them, but in relation to Mats Wilander, the US Open ’88 champion. The Swede had captured his first major title at the age of 17 (Roland Garros 1982) and seemed to be a certain successor of Bjorn Borg. Wilander couldn’t reach the No. 1 over the years despite winning another majors. His dreams of becoming the best in the world came to fruition at Flushing Meadows, in 1988, as he defeated Ivan Lendl avenging six straight defeats, in the longest US Open final (one minute longer than yesterday’s final between Murray and Djokovic). Wilander, only 24 at the time, was so fulfilled that lost his motivation, and never came back to a Grand Slam final.
(3)Andy Murray d. (2)Novak Djokovic 7-6(10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 [4:54 h]
Fifth straight US Open final held on Monday was the most magnificent revenge for the Australian Open loss to Djokovic, Murray could ever imagine. The Scot, who had lost the previous four major finals, finally fulfilled dreams of British fans capturing the first Grand Slam title for Great Britain since 1936 (Fred Perry). The final started at 4 p.m. in tricky conditions, the wind blew so strongly that visibly affected tennis of both finalists, especially of Djokovic, who was constantly off balance whereas playing backhands, it forced him to adapt backhand slice as the main stroke. Perhaps Murray was better adjusted because he’d played against Berdych in similar conditions. He led 4:2* (deuce) in the 1st set, but Djokovic broke back attacking often to the net. In the tie-break the Serb won a tough rally for a 4:2 lead which seemed crucial. Murray’s record in tie-breaks in the last two seasons is remarkable though, and it was symbolically capitalized when they changed the ends, and Djokovic fell on the ground twice – once protecting his body from Murray’s powerful serve, then after a rally being caught on contre pie – both knees of the Serbian player were slightly bleeding in the consequence. Djokovic saved five set points (two on return – Murray’s unforced errors), but the Scot is recently invincible as he reaches a set point – the last time when he lost a set being one point away occurred two years ago in Cincinnati (to be precise it was a match point against Chardy, but Murray won then anyway). On sixth occasion he fired a service winner, followed up with a huge roar of relief. 12/10 – Murray has an awesome record of tie-breaks that reached six-all at least: 18-9. The 87-minute set cost Djokovic decrease of concentration. Murray jumped quickly to a *4:0 (15/0) lead in the 2nd set whilst his rival was spreading errors everywhere. It was elegantly wasted by Murray, however, one of his strongest mental features since his early days on the tour, is that he doesn’t lose his focus once he wastes a comfortable leading. When Djokovic leveled at 5 games apiece, Murray recovered with some considerable help (two unforced errors in the 12th game from Djokovic, including an easy overhead missed by inch) to build a two-set advantage. When they entered 3rd set, the stadium immersed into night session atmosphere. Djokovic likes to repeat that under floodlights he loves to play in New York, feeling the energy of the crowd. He confirmed it when won his first game of the set with a brilliant volley. He made his first solid fist-pumps on day encouraging spectators to bigger support. Sets no. 3 & 4 were played completely on Djokovic’s terms. Murray was point or two from breaking Djokovic’s serve a couple of times, but every time the Serb responded with good serves and aggressive baseline shots. An average rally was longer and more punishing, the tensity increased… Srdjan Djokovic jumped out of his seat when his son got a code violation from umpire Jake Gardner. Because Djokovic is a 5-set master, and Murray signalized some physical problems at the tail end of the 4th set, vast majority of fans could expect Murray’s fifth straight loss in Grand Slam finals. Nonetheless the Scot outsmarted his peer. First points of the decider clearly showed that Murray had saved the required energy, he even interacted with the crowd winning long rally to get 2:0. In the following game Djokovic had two game points but failed. He did everything to cut the deficit winning two games in a row, but 6th game (Murray won to ‘love’ needing only service winners) disenchanted Serbian fans – Djokovic suffered cramps. He was limping in the 7th game losing his serve for the third time in the set. Although he took a medical time-out, his movement didn’t improve drastically and Murray converted a second match point after Djokovic’s crazy attempt to play the hardest return of the final (the ball landed 10 cm outside the baseline). Murray didn’t celebrate excessively, he just crouched in corner of tram-lines covering his face with hands. He got ultimately the monkey off his back after 4 hours 54 minutes – tied record of his coach Ivan Lendl, who co-created it 24 years ago along with Mats Wilander, who… had predicted before the US Open 2012 Murray as a new champion. Lendl, like his current pupil, had lost four initial Grand Slam finals prior to obtaining his first major, and it happened after a 5-set thriller as well – against John McEnroe in Paris 1984. One significant difference – Lendl was one year younger at the time (and had already known the taste of being No. 1). The hobbling Murray said during the trophy presentation: “After the third and fourth sets it was tough mentally for me… Novak is so, so strong. He fights till the end in every single match and I don’t know how I managed to come through in the end. It was close to five hours and I’ve had some really long and tough matches. I just managed to get through.” Stats of the final.
Murray is extremely tough nowadays, both, physically and mentally. He has won two last biggest tournaments (Olympics, US Open) and his advancement on No. 1 seems more probable than ever, maybe not this year, rather after the Australian Open 2013. His rivalry with Djokovic in years to come looks fascinating, I’m already curious how may look a comparison # of them when they turn 30 in the 50th anniversary of the Open era (year 2017). For the time being the new Grand Slam champion goes to No. 3, a currently inactive Rafael Nadal subsides to No. 4. Very likely this setup will prevail to the end of the season. I bet Djokovic is able to overcome Federer at the very top.
(2)B.Bryan/M.Bryan d. (5)L.Paes/R.Stepanek 6-3, 6-4
# Comparison of the finalists:
Age 25.3; tournaments 143; finals 24-12 (1-4 majors); matches 370-118; tie-breaks 107-65; five-setters 13-6
Age 25.3; tournaments 141; finals 31-19 (5-4 majors); matches 454-122; tie-breaks 132-77; five-setters 17-6