There is a growing sense that Andy Murray’s professional tennis career is winding down. Despite being just 33 years of age, a series of injury problems have plagued Murray for the last three years or so, leaving him low down in the ATP rankings and struggling to find the game that won him three Grand Slam titles in the past.
As he began his 2020 US Open campaign, Murray found himself a rank outsider in the US Open tennis betting odds compared to where he would’ve been just a few years ago. He got into the tournament with a wild card after just failing to make the cut in terms of qualifying through his ranking. While he is still capable of producing top quality tennis, as he showed to beat Alexander Zverev at the Cincinnati Masters recently, it feels like it will be tough for Murray to ever get back to his best on a consistent basis.
While he may not be in the most confident mood heading to the US Open, he will take some comfort from the fact that he is returning to the scene of his first Grand Slam triumph, when he beat Novak Djokovic in five sets in 2012. It was a seminal moment in Murray’s career – the breakthrough from nearly man to fully fledged Grand Slam champion.
When the 2012 US Open rolled around, Murray had already reached the final once before, losing in straight sets to Roger Federer in 2008. After that, the Scot had also lost the Australian Open final in 2010 and 2011, and the Wimbledon final in 2012. All four had been painful defeats on Murray, none more so than the defeat to Federer at Wimbledon just a few months prior to touching down at Flushing Meadows.
But it was perhaps the still-raw memory of that crushing blow that spurred Murray on to go one better at the US Open. Throughout the tournament he played like a man on a mission, dropping just three sets en route to the final, despite coming up against tough opponents throughout. He dispatched Alex Bogomolov Jr, Ivan Dodig, Feliciano López, Milos Raonic, Tomáš Berdych and Marin Čilić to reach the showpiece match against Djokovic, proof of Murray’s talent on the biggest stage.
Djokovic’s form had been just as impressive, the Serb dropping just a solitary set on his own path to the final, and the odds were firmly in his favour heading into the final against Murray, a player who many pundits felt didn’t have the mental resolve needed to clear that final hurdle and win a major title.
But Murray started the match like a house on fire, producing outstanding tennis to establish a two-set advantage, proving his mettle in winning the opening two sets 7-6 (12-10), 7-5. The real challenge came for the Scot as Djokovic began to regain a foothold in the match, with Murray losing the next two sets 3-6, 2-6 to set up a fifth and final set. Most felt that Murray was outspent, and that the bitter experiences of past defeats were getting to him, but the British player found something at the vital moment, and produced a stunning performance in the deciding set to win 6-2 and take the title. The final had lasted nearly five hours, but it was Murray who came out on top.
“When I realised I had won, I was a little bit shocked, I was very relieved and I was very emotional," Murray said afterwards. “I don't know how I managed to come through in the end.”
Even amid the disappointment of defeat, Djokovic, who has since become one of the sport’s greatest champions, acknowledged Murray’s feat: “I had a great opponent today. He deserved to win this Grand Slam more than anybody.”