Magical memories of 2012 - Tennis: 'After Murray won he staggered in a daze, then held his head in his hands'

11 September: Andy Murray ends Britain's wait for a major

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The Independent Online

It was not quite the celebration to expect at the end of 76 years of hurt, but we will forgive him for that. To this day, Andy Murray finds it hard to remember the moments immediately after his 7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Novak Djokovic at the US Open, the first by a British man in the singles final of a Grand Slam tournament since 1936.

After Murray had converted his second match point, the Scot staggered forwards in a daze, let his racket slip to the floor and dropped on to his haunches before holding his head in his hands. As John McEnroe said recently: "It would be nice if he could show a bit more emotion next time."

Perhaps Murray's reaction was one of relief at knowing he would not have to explain a defeat to Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Sean Connery, who were among his supporters in a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium on a breezy September day. Connery had told Murray before the final: "I'll be waiting to see you whether you win or lose, but if you don't win I'm going to kick your arse."

In the closing stages of the final Murray had been utterly focused on his task, even when Djokovic, to the boos of the crowd, took a medical time-out to have his legs massaged just before his opponent served for the match. Murray was so focused on his game that he momentarily forgot from which side of the court he should have been serving on his second match point.

Similar concentration had been needed before the fifth set, when Djokovic was threatening to become the first man to win the title from two sets down for 63 years. Murray took a bathroom break, looked in a mirror and told himself: "I'm not going to let this one slip. I'm going to fight for every single point, I'm going to chase every ball down and give 110 per cent. And if you don't win then you won't be disappointed, but you need to give everything on the court."

Murray's ability and dedication had never been in doubt, but after four defeats in Grand Slam finals he had still to dispel the doubts as to whether he had what it took to claim the ultimate prize. At times the burden of British history had appeared to weigh heavily on his shoulders, but his much improved performance at Wimbledon this summer and his subsequent gold-medal triumph at the Olympics clearly did wonders for his confidence.

Self-belief took Murray through some difficult moments in New York. He needed to win three tie-breaks in gruelling heat and humidity to overcome Feliciano Lopez and recovered from a set and 5-1 down to beat Marin Cilic.

It was fitting, nevertheless, that he should finally achieve his lifetime's ambition by beating an opponent who has played a big part in making this arguably the greatest era in the history of men's tennis. Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had between them won 29 of the previous 30 Grand Slam tournaments. The night of 10 September 2012 proved that the battle for supremacy at the top had truly become a four-way fight.

Further reading:

Olympics: ‘Mo, Jess and Greg gave us a night no one could forget’ 4 August: That night in the Olympic Stadium - James Lawton

Football: ‘When Chelsea saw off Barcelona, the joy was in watching the spoilers have their day’ 24 April: Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (agg 2-3); Champions League semi-final second leg - Sam Wallace

Athletics: ‘The roar for Ennis made the hair stand up on the back of my neck’ 3 August: Opening day of track and field at the Olympics - Simon Turnbull

Rugby Union: ‘It was eerie seeing England sticking it to the silver fern’ 1 December: Manu Tuilagi waltzes to the try line as England smash New Zealand- Chris Hewett

Cycling: 'Bradley Wiggins' achievement was greatest we have ever seen from a Briton' 22 July: Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France - Alasdair Fotheringham

Football: ‘We’ll never encounter anything quite like it again’ 13 May: Manchester City win the title in thrilling style - Ian Herbert

Football: ‘After losing the title in the cruellest way, Ferguson stood firm’ 13 May: United are denied the title in heart-breaking style Martin Hardy

Olympics: ‘Nobody personified it more than Hoy, the ultimate sportsman’ 27 July: Hoy leads out Team GB at the Games opening ceremony - Robin Scott-Elliot

Football: ‘An hour later Theo Walcott was a hero – given a standing ovation’ 26 February: Theo Walcott turns the jeers to cheers to steer Arsenal to derby victory - Glenn Moore

Golf: ‘This was it. The moment that would decide the Ryder Cup. A 10-footer for glory ... Get in!’ 30 September: Europe claim Ryder Cup in thrilling fashion - Kevin Garside

Boxing: ‘The fight was terrific from the first bell. It had urgency, nastiness' 14 July: David Haye v Dereck “Del Boy” Chisora - Steve Bunce

Football: ‘That night Spain played thrilling, bold, beautiful football’  1 July: Beautiful Spain smash Italy in the Euro 2012 final - Jack Pitt-Brooke

Formula One: ‘Kimi’s Lotus win was F1’s most romantic result’  4 November: Kimi Raikkonen zooms to victory in Abu Dhabi - David Tremayne

Racing: ‘Frankel enlarged life’s comfort zone for us all’ 22 August: Juddmonte International Stakes; Frankel finally goes the full distance - Chris McGrath

Cricket: ‘A sweep for three and Cook had broken a 73-year-old landmark’  6 December: Alastair Cook breaks England century record - Ste