NEW YORK: History-making Andy Murray ended Britain’s 76-year wait for a men’s Grand Slam champion when he beat 2011 winner Novak Djokovic 7-6 (12/10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 in an epic US Open final on Monday.
Murray became Britain’s first major champion since Fred Perry claimed his third American title in 1936, the year the Spanish Civil War started and Franklin D. Roosevelt was re-elected US president.
In a roller-coaster final, which witnessed a 54-shot rally, numerous 30-stroke exchanges, as well as a record-setting tie-breaker, the 25-year-old Murray held his nerve in a knife-edge final set.
The Olympic champion led 3-0 in the decider, dropped serve but broke again for 5-2 when Djokovic called a medical time-out.
But Murray wasn’t to be denied, taking the historic crown when Djokovic went long with a forehand on a second match point in what was, at four hours and 54 minutes, the second-longest US Open final of all time.
Murray insisted it was a huge relief to finally have captured a major and put an end to the questions over whether or not he would do it.
“Most press conferences I would do I would get asked a question along those sort of lines, and it does build pressure a little bit,” he said.
“You try not to think about it much when you’re playing, but when I was serving for the match, I realized how important that moment was for British tennis. It’s something that hasn’t happened for a long time.
“And, yeah, I’m obviously proud that I managed to achieve it, and don’t have to get asked that stupid question again.”
Murray paid tribute to coach Ivan Lendl, who lost three finals in New York from 1982-1984 before clinching three titles in a row from 1985-1987.
“He was one of the greatest,” Murray said. “He has helped me through the tough times.”
Djokovic admitted Murray was a worthy winner.
“Any loss is a bad loss. I’m disappointed to lose the match, but in the back of my mind I knew that I gave it all. I really, really tried to fight my way back through,” said Djokovic.
“I had a great opponent today. He deserved to win this Grand Slam more than anybody because over the years he’s been a top player. He’s been so close; lost four finals. Now he has won it, so I would like to congratulate him.”
Murray had lost all of his four previous Grand Slam finals – to Roger Federer at the US Open in 2008, the 2010 Australian Open and this year’s Wimbledon, as well as to Djokovic in Australia in 2011.
But cheered on by fellow Scots, Sir Sean Connery and Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, he survived a thrilling fightback by Djokovic, a five-time major winner who had defeated Murray in an epic five-setter in the Australian Open semi-finals in January.
Djokovic had spent five hours fewer than Murray on the court in reaching his fourth US Open final, but fitness wasn’t an issue in the opening exchanges.
It was a battle to see who could master the vicious wind that suddenly whipped up inside Arthur Ashe Stadium as play got underway.
Both players were broken in the first two games before Murray nipped ahead 3-2 with a break courtesy of Djokovic’s third double fault in just three service games.
Murray went to 4-2 despite Djokovic coming out on top in a 54-shot rally.
The Serb retrieved the break for 4-4 before serving two love games going into the tie-break.
The 24-minute tie-breaker, a record for a men’s championship match at the tournament, featured a 30-shot rally and a 33-shot exchange before Murray took it on a sixth set point after a marathon 87-minute set.
Murray, sensing his place in the history books, raced to a 4-0 and 5-2 lead in the second set before Australian Open winner Djokovic, a five-time Grand Slam champion, clawed back to 5-5.
The Scot held for 6-5 and carved out two set points when the Serb sent a wild overhead wide.
Djokovic saved one but handed the second set to his opponent with a misguided forehand which also sailed away on the breeze.
But the world number two wasn’t going down without a fight.
A year ago, he came back from two sets and two match points down to beat Federer in the semi-finals and, on Monday, he took the third set 6-2 on the back of a double-break.
Comfortably on top after such a sudden and unexpected shift in momentum, Djokovic broke for 1-0 in the fourth set.
He then survived a break point in the fourth game as well as a time violation handed down by umpire Jake Garner to hold for 3-1.
Murray wilted under the barrage as the once-uncertain Djokovic became a sure-footed shot-maker, levelling the final by taking the fourth set 6-3.