There were times here at the US Open yesterday when a ferocious wind threatened to blow both players off the court, but in the end it was Tomas Berdych who was swept aside as Andy Murray thundered into his second Grand Slam final of the summer. After a first set in which both players struggled with the hugely testing conditions, Murray produced a master class to beat the Berdych 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6.
When Murray plays as he did in the second and third sets here, he should fear nobody. The 25-year-old Scot, adjusting his game to cope with the wind, toyed with the world No 7, who had won four of their previous six meetings. Murray served conservatively, which was exactly what he needed to do in the circumstances, struck the ball with admirable aggression from the back of the court and volleyed superbly. He also varied the pace of his shots beautifully, confounding Berdych with a series of slices, drop shots and slower balls.
Rain had started falling shortly before the players were due on court at 11am. It quickly became torrential and there was even a tornado warning, upon which the upper levels of Arthur Ashe Stadium were evacuated. The tornado eventually touched ground just three miles away. Nevertheless, the skies soon cleared and by 12.25pm the match was under way, although the 23,000-capacity arena was barely a quarter full at the start.
With a stiff wind swirling around the stadium, it was no surprise that both players struggled at first. At the top of the stands a flag was being blown in one direction, but at ground level the wind was coming from the opposite side.
It was hard to keep the ball in play from one end and all too easy to hit it short from the other. Murray tried to keep the ball low and take the pace off it, while Berdych, who has a high ball toss, regularly had to abort his service action.
Play sometimes had to be held up because of litter being blown around the arena and during the second set one big gust blew the players' chairs on to the court in the middle of a point. Hats off – probably literally – to the stadium disc jockey who played 'Windy' by The Association during one changeover.
The wind played a big part in the turning point of the first set. Murray had made the early break to lead 2-1 and was 30-40 down in the following game when he hit a winning drop shot. However, in playing the shot – which Berdych was never going to reach – his cap came off. Pascal Maria, the umpire, did not notice and initially awarded the point to Murray, but Berdych complained. After a lengthy discussion between the three men, the point – quite correctly, according to the letter of the law – was replayed.
Murray went on to lose the point and with it his serve. When the Scot served at 5-6, Berdych forced two set points and converted the second of them with a forehand winner.
As Murray had played most of the better tennis in the 77-minute first set it was not exactly a time to send for James Bond, although he have noticed that Sean Connery, his fellow Scot, was watching from the president's box.
Murray quickly proved that he was the man with the golden gun. He broke immediately at the start of the second set, which he won in 44 minutes. The third set was even more emphatic. Murray did not drop a single point on his serve and 12 of his first serves found their target.
Berdych, to his credit, offered stiffer resistance in the fourth set, in which he fought back from 3-0 down. The 27-year-old Czech had a set point at 6-5 in the tie-break, which Murray saved with a backhand winner, and the Scot went on to convert his first match point at 8-7 when Berdych hit a forehand long.
"You had to focus for every single point," Murray said when asked about the conditions. "You had to get yourself in the right position for every single shot because the ball was sometimes stopping or moving the other way and the chairs were flying on to the court. It was hard to serve and I wasn't really going for aces. It was more a case of getting the first serve in because to control the second was really tough."
Murray is not the only Briton through to a final here. Liam Broady, runner-up in the 2011 junior event at Wimbledon, beat Japan's Kaichi Uchida 6-1 6-1 in the semi-finals of the boys' competition yesterday. He will meet Canada's Filip Peliwo, while another British junior, Kyle Edmund, won the boys' doubles title with Portugal's Frederico Ferreira Silva. They beat Australia's Nick Kyrgios and Jordan Thompson 5-7 6-4 10-6 in a champions' tie-break.
Murray's record in Grand Slam finals
US Open 2008
Federer won 6-2 7-5 6-2
Andy Murray paid for his efforts in having to play his semi-final against Rafael Nadal over the previous two days, whereas Roger Federer had a day off to prepare. Murray won only five points against serve in the first set, recovered well in the second but was outplayed in the third.
Australian Open 2010
Federer won 6-3 6-4 7-6
Federer was the better player for the first set and a half, but the rest of the match was very tight indeed. At one point Murray led 5-2 in the third set and had five set points during a marathon tie-break. "I can cry like Roger, it's just a shame I can't play like him," Murray said afterwards.
Australian Open 2011
Djokovic won 6-4 6-2 6-3
Perhaps the most dispiriting defeat of Murray's career. Novak Djokovic played superbly, combining stonewall defence with exhilarating attack, but Murray never looked at his best. He made too many mistakes, served poorly, was broken seven times and seemed reluctant to go for his shots.
Federer won 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-4
Murray pushed Federer hard in a match of the highest quality and finally won a set in a Grand Slam final. Murray's aggressive approach paid off in the early stages, but the match turned after the Centre Court roof was shut because of rain early in the third set, after which Federer took charge.