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A KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOUR

The New York crowd embraces Andy Murray who ended the 76-year long British grandslam drought by winning the US Open

10 September 2012

THE BRITISH are jubilant and for a good reason. The six foot three Scot with an already receding hairline at 25 had finally ended their 76 year-long grand slam drought by defeating the reigning champion Novak Djokovic in a 4 Hr 54 Min 5 set epic (7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2) to win the US Open. The new champion also inspired the 82 year old Sir Sean Connery last night to waltz through Arthur Ashe stadium like a Sikh Bhangra dancer to his locker room and Russel Crowe to Tweet.

In another wind-blown afternoon with sunshine gracing the picturesque Manhattan skyline the match began in conditions that appeared to favour Murray. In the first set tie breaker Djokovic slipped and threw off a point that proved crucial in his losing it 10-12. The second set started with a flood of unforced errors from Djokovic that Murray took advantage of (7-5). In the next two sets (6-2, 6-3) the momentum swung back as Djokovic went into an overdrive. But in the final set he appeared to wither as his legs gave way perhaps as a result of his previous day’s four set semi-final match against the Spanish die-hard David Ferrer.

Other members of Team Murray attribute the Scot’s triumph mainly to his association with his coach since January 2012, Ivan Lendl. There was also talk of the cramps attack in Djokovic’s legs in the fifth set in hushed tones though. Yet Djokovic was gracious in defeat acknowledging Murray as a worthy opponent and also that he surely deserved to win his first grand slam.

Not surprisingly there are also parallels between Murray and his coach Ivan Lendl that are more than coincidental. Like Murray, Lendl had also lost four consecutive grand slam finals before turning the tide at Rolland Garros and went on to triumph on seven further occasions. Both were raised in environments close to industrial towns, Murray in Dunblane near Glasgow and Lendl in Ostrava not far from the Polish border. Both were coached by their mothers before their careers actually took off. Last night’s final at the National Tennis Center also tied the record for the longest Open final that had ended the Czech’s three year reign as champion after a grueling 4 hours and 54 minutes in 1988 against Mats Wilander.

At championship point when Djokovic’s service return sailed long and Murray embraced the moment of glory, Lendl’s stony physiognomy faltered and an imperceptible curl appeared at the corners of his mouth. “That’s almost a smile for him”, Murray acknowledged. When a television reporter quizzed him about his contained deportment in his dream come true instant Murray said, “I think we are sort of learning from Lendl a little bit” exchanging glances with Kim Sears who was standing up with clenched fists close to the President’s box.

Djokovic felt Lendl’s influence on Murray was “Mental in the end mostly. He has maybe a couple of adjustments in his game. Maybe he goes for forehand more than he used to. But I think he definitely changed his mindset towards the big matches. A lot of expectations. He has won it in a very impressive way.”

As a matter of fact Murray and Djokovic had played against each other in a junior tournament in France when both were only eleven. Subsequently they formed a pair and became doubles partners on the tour. His compatriots Nadal with eleven and Djokovic with five major titles the last couple of years may not have been easy for Murray. His debut in a grand slam final was in 2008 that he eventually lost to Federer. Lendl says, “That’s why I came on board, to help Andy win. With the Olympics he already had won a big one in my mind. It’s may be more difficult to win than others because you have once chance in four years and here you have four chances in one year.”

May be what Sir Alex Ferguson claimed after gate crashing Murray’s post semifinal press conference along with Sir Sean Connery is true, perhaps the Scots had invented the wind!.

 

 

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