Jack Pitt-Brooke: It's an ill wind that blows Andy Murray into the right time slot after the footy
View From The Sofa: US Open tennis, Sky Sports 2
Monday 10 September 2012
There is nothing quite like the weather to add an extra layer of drama, and an extra level of challenge, to sport which already provides enough of both. Andy Murray's US Open semi-final with Tomas Berdych, a typical Murray arc of struggle and stardust, was battered by the most vandalising winds.
Two rare tornadoes were in town, tearing through the New York boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn, delaying the start of the semi-final, scattering litter across the court, swerving the ball away from the servers, and gifting the Sky Sports team something mercifully distracting to discuss.
In a sense, the weather saved the coverage too. Anticipating the onset of the storm, the scheduled start of the semi-final was brought forward from 5pm to 4pm. Sky Sports 2, though, had planned a Scottish Saturday sequence: Scotland v Serbia, kicking off at 3pm, followed immediately by the tennis. Had Murray started on time, viewers would have been left watching the blunt blundering of Charlie Adam and Kenny Miller while a different Scot played sport from a different category thousands of miles away. But the generous intervention of torrential rain pushed the start time back to its original point. Patriotic Scots who had not been pushed into sleep or manic rage by another Craig Levein tactical masterpiece could allow their mood to be improved by the start of the tennis straight after.
The rain had passed in time for Murray to start after the football, but the wind was relentless. Greg Rusedski, Annabel Croft and Boris Becker all promised that the weather would aid the sharper-footed Murray over his slower opponent. But Berdych won the first set, and the match was recast as two separate battles of will, between each player and the weather, with little interaction between the two. Spirit-based explanations are obviously preferable to technical ones, and so Mark Petchey was quick to quote Dan Gable. "Gold medals aren't really made of gold," he sentimentalised. "They're made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts."
The wind, blowing crisp packets and hot-dog wrappers across the court, made for perfect plot device. Croft described "the most horrendous conditions", Petchey bemoaned the lack of roof, and said that the game had "turned from serious tennis into comedy". So as Murray grew into the game and started to outplay Berdych, as he did with ferocious second and third sets, it was framed as an inevitable victory of will. "Murray is slowly imposing his character on the match today," said Becker. Leif Shiras called it "the perfect storm".
It was a resounding victory in the end, and Sky showed Murray's post-match press conference, graced by the arrival of two famous old Scots, Sean Connery and Sir Alex Ferguson. They were delighted that their young compatriot had overcome the weather to give Scotland a shot at international sporting glory – certainly a better one than Levein will provide.
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