Andy Murray, the rangy Scot and lone member of the “Big Four” without a Slam on his resume, quite emphatically played the match of his life to capture his first major championship, outlasting defending champion Novak Djokovic in an enthralling 4-hour, 54-minute, five-set victory, 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2. The match tied the record for the longest final in US Open history.
The first set alone lasted one hour, 27 minutes, terminating in a nailbiter of a tiebreak. Murray, the recent Olympic gold medalist, held on to win a tight second set, squandering a 4-0 lead. But Djokovic roared back to win the next two, forcing a decisive fifth set.
On a perfect, sunny September afternoon – albeit one with high winds rippling the American flag atop Ashe Stadium and making the umpire’s mic rumble like a cargo train – Murray held his nerve, a quality he has never been renowned for, to prevent Djokovic from winning his second US Open crown and sixth major overall. The match was an exhilarating baseline display in difficult conditions: exactly what the capacity crowd, and surely all of the UK, had waited for.
Earlier this year Murray hired Ivan Lendl, who also suffered through four Grand Slam finals before triumphing (he would go on to win eight), to coach him. Lendl not only encouraged Murray to be more aggressive at key moments, he seemed to impart a new mental toughness and sense of calm and perspective.
Murray may have remained calm deep into the fifth set, but he seemed stunned and enervated when Djokovic’s last shot sailed long, too tired to climb the stands to salute his family and team.
The newly crowded Slam champion left it to Djokovic to sum it up: “It was a tremendous match to be a part of.”