Andy Murray won the the US Open in the fifth set after blowing a two-set lead. (Clive Brunskill / Getty…)
NEW YORK — Andy Murray, who had wept in disappointment when he lost to Roger Federer in the finals of Wimbledonin July, even though he had finally won his first set in a Grand Slam final, wept again Monday night.
It was different this time.
Murray, a slightly sarcastic, totally emotional 25-year-old Scotsman who had played in four previous major tournament finals, won his first Monday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Murray withstood the furious will of second-seeded and defending champion Novak Djokovic to win the U.S. Open title, 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 in the rain-delayed final Monday night. Murray became the first British man since Fred Perry won Wimbledon in 1936 to take one of the four biggest titles -- the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon or U.S. Open.
Djokovic saved one match point but on the second he sent a forehand long. Murray went to his knees and covered his mouth and then the tears came, well-deserved after a match that lasted nearly five hours.
With the Olympic gold medal he recently won as his biggest tournament prize, Murray can now rightly be referred to as one of the "big four." For several years Murray was always a distant fourth to Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic, who have all been ranked No. 1 in the world. But those men were winning major titles. Murray was just losing to them in the semifinals or finals.
In uncomfortably windy conditions that sent garbage twirling through the air and made whistling noises as it passed through the microphone of chair umpire Jake Garner, Murray was steady for two sets, then resteadied himself in the fifth set. There were several rallies of more than 30 shots and one of 54. Murray literally knocked Djokovic to his knees with one serve and Djokovic drove Murray to loudly uttering words that would normally be bleeped by censors.
And when Murray was about to serve for the match, leading 5-2 in the fifth set after 4 hours and 47 minutes of play, Djokovic earned boos for calling for a trainer to deal with cramps in his legs. As Djokovic was massaged, Murray hopped around and threw tennis balls off the back wall.
With another Scottish star, actor Sean Connery, on hand, Murray couldn't have asked for a better start. With wind gusts approaching 20 mph, he broke Djokovic immediately and emphatically, at love, in the first game.
But that was short-lived prosperity for Murray. He fell behind 0-40 on his serve, saved two of the three break points but on the third Murray put a backhand squarely into the net. An edgy Djokovic had to save four break points in the third game and sometimes his four limbs seemed to be working against each other instead of in unison as he tried to track wind-blown balls. But it was finally Murray who plunked a couple of forehands into the net and let Djokovic settle into a 2-1 lead.
The wind was amplified by the chair umpire's microphone that is supposed to be used to help pick up the sound of a ball hitting the net. Instead it made it sound as if a hurricane was moving through Arthur Ashe Stadium.
In his second service game, with the wind behind him, Djokovic had no better sense of what to do. He got down 15-40 and then served a double fault. The Serbian swatted at the ground. He might have meant to hit the surface but the wind made even that difficult.
Murray finally consolidated a service break in the sixth game that featured a point with 54 shots that Djokovic won. But Djokovic knocked a backhand long and Murray had a 4-2 lead. After smashing a racket, with his temper fully engaged, Djokovic fought hard in the seventh game to hold serve and trailed, 4-3.
Djkovic evened the first set in the next game and soon it was on to the tiebreak.
The tension grew as Murray burned through set points, four of them. But finally, on the fifth, he pounded a deep and fast service winner past the lunging Djokovic to win the first set, 7-6 (10). The set lasted 1 hour 24 minutes, the tiebreak 24 minutes. There were points that went 54 shots, 33 shots and 30 shots as the two men tried to find the right spot to place the tennis ball between wind gusts.
This was only Murray's second set win in five Grand Slam final appearances. He had taken a set against Federer at Wimbledon this year.
Djokovic went down quickly 2-0 in the second set. He had two bloody knees from a first-set fall and he gave his racket an angry look. It's not that he hasn't come from behind. He did it against Federer here. But the conditions, with the wind meddling with his game of precision, was making him cranky. Meanwhile, Murray had spoken of playing outside with incredible wind when he was growing up in Scotland.