Murray, king of New York
Monday 08 September 2008
Not even Tropical Storm Hanna could stop Hurricane Andy sweeping into his first Grand Slam final here last night after the greatest performance of the young Scot's life. Andy Murray had been stopped in his tracks by the wind and rain that ripped along the north-east American coast on Saturday, but he picked himself up and blew Rafael Nadal off the court when their US Open semi-final resumed 26 hours later.
Any fears that the overnight disruption would throw Murray off his path were dispelled as the British No 1 completed a superb 6-2, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 victory over the world No 1. Nadal, who had swept all before him this summer, mounted a spirited comeback to take the third set, but in the end the Spaniard was outhit, outthought and outplayed. In tonight's final Murray will face Roger Federer, who will be attempting to win the title for the fifth year in a row.
Although Murray had lost all five of his previous matches against Nadal, he always believed he could beat the 22-year-old Spaniard. If Nadal looked sluggish and appeared to pay the price of a gruelling summer, it took a player of exceptional talent and composure to expose his fatigue.
Murray served brilliantly throughout and found the perfect balance between defence and attack. When he went for his shots, Murray struck the ball with a power that frequently took Nadal aback. It was a complete reversal of their meeting in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon two months ago, when Nadal outmuscled the Briton in straight sets.
The Scot wears the Fred Perry crest on his shirts and will now attempt to become the first British man to win a Grand Slam title since his famous predecessor won the last of his eight major titles here 72 years ago. Murray is the first Briton to play in a Grand Slam final since Greg Rusedski lost to Pat Rafter here 11 years ago. John Lloyd, who lost to Vitas Gerulaitis in Australia in 1977, is the only other British man to reach a Grand Slam final in the Open era.
"Roger's probably the greatest player ever, so to get the chance to play against him in a Grand Slam final is an honour," Murray said after the match. "I've played well against him in the past so I hope I can do that again tomorrow." He added: "I'm very relieved. It was tough to come back after I was two sets up yesterday and I'm so glad that I came through. The atmosphere in here was unbelievable today. The crowd only got a set and a half's worth of tennis, but they were unbelievable, even though I think they wanted a fifth set."
Asked to explain his huge affection for the US Open, where he won the junior title four years ago, Murray said: "It's my favourite tournament. It has been since I was a junior. It's just different. I had the guys from 'Entourage', which is my favourite TV show, here the other night and Will Ferrell, my favourite comedian, was watching today. You don't get that back home."
The overnight situation had borne unwelcome similarities with Tim Henman's Wimbledon semi-final seven years ago, when Murray's predecessor as British No 1 was leading Goran Ivanisevic but failed to capitalise on his advantage after the match was held over because of rain.
The two players had to cope with both a change in weather conditions yesterdayand a change of venue. The first two hours of the match had been played in the more intimate Louis Armstrong Stadium on Saturday, but yesterday the match was switched to the cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium. Murray had dominated the first two sets the previous day, but resumed a break down in the third. Nevertheless he started confidently enough, winning his first two service games to love and forcing a break point when Nadal served for the set at 5-4. The Spaniard saved it with an ace and then converted his second set point with a forehand winner.
The world No 1 was right back in contention after a remarkable period of play at the start of the fourth set. Having saved seven break points in a 15-minute game to level at 1-1, Nadal immediately broke Murray. At 1-3 and 0-30 Murray was looking shaky, but he dug deep to hold serve and in the next game broke to level at 3-3 as Nadal hit two forehands long and netted a volley from 40-30 up as Murray turned up the pressure. At 3-4 the Spaniard saved another break point and at 4-5 the Scot's pressure finally told.
Murray played the last three points superbly, manoeuvring Nadal all around the court before moving forward to deliver the killer blow. On his first match point Murray chased down Nadal's weak drop shot and drilled a backhand winner down the line.
Now Murray has to regroup and refocus on the task of beating the man who has won the title here for the last four years in succession. Federer himself believes that it will be to Murray's advantage that he will not be playing his first Grand Slam final at his home tournament.
"I guess it's less pressure for him to be in the finals here than at Wimbledon," Federer said. "There's no doubt, even though he would have tremendous support over there. I still feel he's maybe even better on grass than on hard courts.
"I remember coming in as the favourite for my first final. That will obviously be a big difference for him, even though he beat me last time. It will be interesting, but I have a feeling he's a guy who plays well on the big occasions."
Murray has won two of his three matches against Federer. The Scot lost on their first meeting in Bangkok three years ago but beat him in the Cincinnati Masters two years ago and in Dubai earlier this year.
The weekend scheduling here has certainly done him no favours. While Murray spent yesterday completing his semi-final, Federer was able to recuperate and ready himself for today's final, which will begin at 5pm this afternoon (10pm BST).
Tournament organisers were criticised for their failure to schedule the two semi-finals at the same time on different courts on Saturday. Murray's match was eventually moved to Louis Armstrong Stadium from Arthur Ashe, but not in time for it to be completed. The Scot will be grateful that he was not detained for more than an hour and a half yesterday, but taking on the man he believes is the greatest ever to play the game will be some challenge. Murray, however, believes he is up to it.
Final hurdle: The Grand Slam record
British finalists in open era: 1
Greg Rusedski (1997) Lost to Patrick Rafter
Last British winner: Fred Perry
(Non-open era, 1936)
British finalists in open era: 0
Last winner: Perry (1936)
British finalists in open era: 0
Last winner: Perry (1935)
British finalists in open era: 1
John Lloyd (1977) Lost to Vitas Gerulaitis
Last winner: Perry (1934)
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