It’s over. The wait has ended. And it was a mother of a wait or the mother of all waits.
It took an agonizingly long, arduous,76 years, nine months, four hours and 54 minutes for the British tennis jinx to end. And it was that last four hours and 54 minutes that, paradoxically, was probably both extremely enervating and euphorically exhilarating for the entire UK.
Murray truly won it, not lucked into it, not inherited it but won it. In fact, he didn’t just win it, the lad took it. He wrestled it away from the defending champion, Novak Djokovic, which to say the least, is never an easy task.
Dethroning a champion is a formidable undertaking. You had better come correct or don’t come at all.
Murray’s feat was all the more remarkable considering the conditions under which the final was played.
Winds gusted from 18-20 miles per hour throughout the match, abating only slightly in the final 45 or so minutes. Neither player could depend on an approaching ball being in the optimal strike zone upon arrival. Split second micro-adjustments became critical.
The wind was chilly and it not only gusted, it swirled. Both men struggled to cope but unquestionably, Murrray had the better adaptive response.
He also had a leg up on Djokovic having completed his semifinal win over Tomas Berdych in even more blustery conditions. Djokovic’s semi with Ferrer was postponed until the following day which proved a far better one for tennis and Djokovic who trailed 2-5 in the first when play was halted.
Though aggressive play was highly risky, the match was still excruciatingly physical with mind boggling rallies. It was almost unfathomable that tennis of such high quality could be contested under such adverse circumstances, but it was. It’s a testament to what elite tennis has become.
The first set alone took an hour and 27 minutes to complete going to Murray in a 12-10 tiebreak, an inkling of what was yet to come.
Time and again the players locked horns in seemingly impossible 30-plus-ball rallies that left both gasping for breath. And then, then they’d reset and do it all again just to win a single point towards winning a single game. Every point seemed to be the point, the one that would ultimately decide the outcome.
Both played as though channeling Rafael Nadal, the ultimate, almost maniacally greedy point monster. He wants em all, and will fight for each.
Andy Murray is no longer a “fringe player.” He’s a credentialed member of an exclusive club of grand slam champions. What’s more, he’s also an Olympic singles gold medalist. Not even the great Federer has achieved that…yet.
Murray earned his success. He worked hard for it. Had to. The man he hired, under whom he most recently toiled would certainly accept nothing less than 100% dedication and 110% effort. That’s the way Murray’s new coach, Ivan Lendl, played the game. That methodical approach earned him eight slams and an undeniable niche in tennis history.
Murray had always possessed an impressive arsenal of shots, a complete set of technically flawless skills. And wheels, oh he’s got em…big time. Murray can run down balls with the best of them. He’s not only fast, he’s quick, so his defensive skills are second to none.
What Murray lacked to make him a complete player, Lendl provided.
Lendl coaxed Murray out of his propensity for playing defensive tennis by infusing him with a different mindset, controlled aggression. He convinced him to “seize the moment,” when an opponent is in trouble, at that instant, go for the knockout punch.
It wasn’t that Murray didn’t recognize those instances, but for him, attacking was counter-intuitive. Waiting for mistakes or employing the famous Muhammed Ali “rope a dope” ploy was Murray’s preferred strategy. Lendl got him to step out of that comfort zone.
There was another fundamental shift brought to the mix by coach Lendl, an overall change in Murray’s oft sour, grumpy, whiny attitude. Lendl taught him to let that crap go. He helped Murray understand how totally counterproductive negativity is. Lendl’s philosophy is, “If it brings nothing positive to your game, then it’s useless.”
That also worked.
Andy Murray has made an attitudinal quantum leap. He no longer descends into those quasi-depressive funks when things don’t go well on court. Rather, he now vents in a far less incendiary fashion and moves on.
He’s changed. He’s matured. He’s a man. He’s a winner, a grand slam winner.
An interesting sidebar was the second epic battle played out during the awards ceremony. While Murray delivered his acceptance speech, the ever stoic Lendl fought desperately to tame the twitching corners of his mouth which threatened to destroy his composure and morph into a smile.
The records will show that Andy Murray, a Scott, moved a mountain of despair and freed the Brits from a 76-year grand slam singles championship void. And at the end of that text, there may be an asterisk followed by these words: Monday, September 3, 2012, National Tennis Center, US Open, Arthur Ashe stadium–Ivan Lendl smiled!
For all that Ivan Lendl brought to Andy Murray, Murray gave back. He gave Lendl a reason to smile.
Congratulations to Andy Murray and the entire UK.
Your suffering is over.