Teetotal Murray enjoys a taste of home after finally scaling the heights
New US Open champion basks in glory of his maiden Grand Slam triumph... and savours a drop of Irn-Bru
He will not arrive home until this morning, but after spending the last month on this side of the Atlantic Andy Murray enjoyed a taste of Britain here yesterday. To be precise, when Britain's first male Grand Slam singles champion for 76 years sat down next to the US Open trophy at a reception at the residence of the British consul general just off First Avenue he enjoyed a taste of Irn-Bru.
Having entered the room to the sound of a bagpiper playing "Scotland the Brave" and declined the offer of a cucumber sandwich, Murray was presented with a box of British products, including Maltesers, Hula Hoops and wine gums. The first item he went for, however, was the Irn-Bru, a favourite drink back home in Scotland.
Murray attended the reception after completing his television commitments on American breakfast shows and doing a photo-shoot in Central Park. It had been a busy last 15 hours. Following his 7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Novak Djokovic in Monday night's final here, the new world No 3 had had barely an hour's sleep. Having finished his media commitments in the wake of the final the previous night, Murray had joined his entourage at an Asian fusion restaurant for dinner in Manhattan.
"We probably didn't get there until midnight," he said. "Everybody had quite a few drinks – I didn't – and then we probably got back to the hotel at about three o'clock. I didn't get to sleep until five and then I was up at 6.30 this morning so I've not had a whole lot of sleep."
Murray has rarely drunk alcohol ever since an occasion as a teenager when he felt ill after having one or two drinks too many. "I didn't have one drink last night," he said. "The problem was that when I arrived, everyone was so drunk already. It would have taken a while to catch, up so I didn't bother."
The only notable absentee at dinner had been Ivan Lendl, Murray's coach, who has been such a key factor in a glorious summer during which the 25-year-old Scot has reached his first Wimbledon final, won Britain's first tennis Olympic gold medal for 104 years and replaced Fred Perry as the last British man to win a Grand Slam singles title.
"He's so focused when I'm playing the matches," Murray said. "He didn't come out for dinner with us. He just kept telling everyone how dead he was after the match and how tired he was. He just sat there and I was like: 'You weren't the one playing!' But he's been through many matches like that, so he knows how tough it is.'
Lendl normally sits motionless and expressionless through Murray's matches, but on Monday night even the 52-year-old eight-times Grand Slam champion was applauding his man through the match.
"He would have understood how important it was for me," Murray said. "He's been around guys when they've been nervous before. Yesterday in the warm-up before the match I was a bit edgy in the locker room beforehand. I was much quieter than normal, so he would have known that. He's obviously only just started coaching as well, so for his coaching career it was also a big match in some ways."
Murray said that Lendl had told him before the final: "Just enjoy the match. It's what you work all your life towards, so enjoy it." Murray said he had replied: "That's exactly the problem. I've been working 10 years for this and it's a big moment for me and I don't know if I'm going to enjoy it."
The Scot admitted that he had felt a little numb in the moments after his victory. "I was in a bit of shock, and after that I was just very relieved," he said. "I wasn't able to sleep last night. I wasn't bouncing off the walls or anything, I just couldn't go to sleep. I was sitting awake for a few hours.
"Normally during the tournament if I'd had an hour and a half to sleep and I'd had to get up I would have been in the worst mood ever, but today I woke up and jumped out of bed at 6.30am, which isn't like me. I was obviously very excited. But I don't think it has sunk in yet and it will probably take while."
After losing in his first four Grand Slam finals and being constantly asked whether he thought he would ever win one, Murray said it would be a relief never to have to answer the question again. "Since I was 21 it's something that I've been asked most weeks of my life," he said. "It really started to get to me a lot earlier this year. Everywhere I went I got asked the same thing. A lot of people would come up to me and say: 'You'll get the next one, don't worry about it.' It almost made it worse."
Had Murray ever thought that he might never win a Grand Slam title? "After the Australian Open and after Wimbledon this year, when I came so close, you do start to doubt whether it is actually going to happen and you do think about that," he admitted. "When I was younger, I always believed it was going to happen. At times this year I was starting to doubt it a little bit."
Murray said he hoped that achieving his greatest ambition would not change him as a person. "That was something I spoke to Ivan about at the French Open," he said. "I worried what might happen if I win a major or how my life might change if I won it, but Ivan said: 'Don't worry about it. I thought the same thing, but all that happens is you get more people congratulating you, you get to stay in nice hotels and restaurants and the chance to play on all the good golf courses for free'."
Having missed this week's Olympic and Paralympic celebrations in London, Murray said that he would like to take part in a similar event in Glasgow on Friday and also visit family and friends back home, but he added: "I would also like to get a few days to myself just to take everything in and just be normal for a few days before doing any of that."
Among the many messages of congratulation Murray received was one from Rafael Nadal – absent from the tournament with a long-term knee injury. "He messaged me after the match and just said: 'Enjoy it. I'm happy for you and you deserved it.' When you get congratulations from someone you're competing against – and he's one of the best players ever – it means a little bit more.'" Other messages included those from friends who said there had been suggestions at home that the new US Open champion should be knighted. What did Murray think of the idea? "I don't really know what to say," he said.
"I think it should take more than one or two good tournaments to deserve something like that. I just think people have been saying that because it's such a long time since this happened in British tennis. Just now I would say it would probably be a bit rash.'
Next challenge: Can he be world No 1?
After his US Open victory, Andy Murray climbed to third in the ATP World Rankings, overtaking Rafael Nadal.
1 Roger Federer 11,805pts
2 Novak Djokovic 10,470pts
3 Andy Murray 8,570pts
Ranking points left to defend (from last year's results) in closing stages of the 2012 ATP World Tour
Federer 2,180pts (from three tournaments)
Djokovic 560 (three tournaments)
Murray 1,930 (five tournaments)
Federer and Murray enjoyed a strong end to 2011 and have many points to defend so Djokovic looks favourite to finish the year as world No 1. There are seven tournaments remaining on this year's Tour calendar with 500 or more points available:
China Open (Beijing) 500pts for winner; starts 1 October
Japan Open (Tokyo) 500; 1 October
Shanghai Masters 1,000; 7 October
Valencia Open (Spain) 500; 22 October
Swiss Indoors (Basle) 500; 22 October
Paribas Masters (Paris) 1,000; 29 October
ATP World Tour finals (London) 1,500; 5 November
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