There were some that thought it may never happen. Rather like peace on earth, an end to global warming, honesty from politicians and trains that run on time, Andy Murray winning a Grand Slam has for so long been a conceptual idea. A “wouldn’t it be nice if…” pipe dream. Until last week, that is, when the Scot triumphed in New York, beating Novak Djokovic to win the US Open title.
This splendid slice of success, in a sport so dominated by one man, Roger Federer, occasionally shaken and bruised by those that choose to take him on, came weeks after Murray won the men’s singles gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
This made him the first British champion in more than a century, while the five set defeat of Djokovic was the first individual singles title for a player from these shores since 1977. Murray is also the first British man to win a Grand Slam since 1936.
Playing the long game
However, his triumph is about far more than mere numbers, dates and statistics. It stands as a vindication of the 25 year old’s new style. Formerly a cautious being, reliant on technical ability winning out over the course of a long game, there has been a drastic change of style imposed upon Murray by his coach, Ivan Lendl.
Having said this, the final against Djokovic was an extremely long game indeed. Only the 1988 US Open final, in which Lendl competed, lasted as long as this year’s match.
Negativity abounded on Twitter and other social networking sites as Murray contrived to take proceedings to five sets and very nearly throw away a two set advantage. In the event he came through, and it is clear that Murray has learned from previous disappointments.
Wimbledon showed that Murray’s game had reached a new level, albeit one not quite sufficient to win on British soil, while the US Open merely confirmed this. Having become boy’s singles champion back in 2004, Flushing Meadows is a favourite haunt for the Dunblane-born tennis player.
Upon returning home today Murray received a hero’s welcome, fit for a man that has met with triumph and disaster this year and treated both imposters just the same, to echo Kipling’s famous quote. From the devastation of Wimbledon to the shock and euphoria of the Olympics, and then on to the US Open, the floodgates have well and truly opened.
Enduring the physical challenge presented not only by a five set match but consistently doled out by the relentless Serb, Murray demonstrated great mental fortitude and stamina, managing to remain focused even when it appeared as though the match had swung towards Djokovic in the fourth set.
The first of many
When speaking to journalists and the television cameras, Murray himself knows that things are different now. In the era he happens to be playing in, it is essential, and unavoidable, to learn how to lose and what it feels like to come as close as possible to glory.
Now he has learned how to win as well, and few would bet against further successes in the Australian and French Open championships, before Murray takes on Wimbledon in 2013. When an individual reaches a previously insurmountable peak, their natural instinct is to keep on climbing.
This Murray can do, having shown those that doubted him and vindicated those that stuck by his side through the disappointments of the past few years, and with a more aggressive, direct and battling style, Murray has begun to take the game to his opponents.
They may not like it, but it has already borne tremendous success. As for us, the great British public, starved of tennis success and still basking in the warm glow of London 2012, we bloody love it.
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