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Murray reaches 2nd US Open final
Gale-force winds, approaching tornadoes, a battling opponent, Sir Sean Connery barging into his news conference and, amid all that, a fifth Grand Slam final looming for Andy Murray – the man who has yet to win one.
In the worst conditions imaginable, Murray produced some incredibly skillful tennis to defeat Tomas Berdych, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6(7), in a duel that preyed on the mind as much as the body and lasted two minutes short of four hours.
In the second semifinal, Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, found himself trailing 2-5 in the first set against Spain’s David Ferrer when the match was called because of the tornado forecast, so for the fifth consecutive year, the men’s final will be played on Monday.
Earlier, the decision had been taken to postpone the women’s final between Serena Williams and Viktoria Azarenka until 4:30 pm Sunday.
Murray was obviously relieved to have come through the toughest wind conditions he had ever played in, save for a losing final at Indian Wells against Rafael Nadal in 2009. The gusts were so strong that paper flew across the court and once, a player’s chair was blown right onto the playing area in the middle of a point.
Inevitably, there were questions as to whether the match should continue, but Murray said a match should only be stopped in the event of a tornado.
“I don’t know if they stop in other sports for a lot of wind,” he said. “You know, there is a skill to playing in the wind. I have never played in it that bad, but people like to watch professionals struggle. Ivan (Lendl) always says he likes watching golfers when it’s blowing really hard because it makes them hit bad shots and makes him feel a lot better!”
Needless to say, Berdych was less sanguine on the subject. “It affect me a lot because I have a high toss,” said the 6-foot-5 Czech. “So, actually, it was quite hard to adjust to that. He dealt with it much better than me. I think our sport deserves to have some rule if conditions are like that, like you don’t play because of the rain. We play in Grand Slam, such a big tournament, especially missing the roof, it’s something at least to think about.”
Luck, inevitably, has a bigger part to play than usual in such situations, and it was Murray, in fact, who came out worse on two significant occasions. In the third game of the match, leading 2-1 with the break, Murray ran forward to play a drop shot and, as he did so, his white cap fell off. Umpire Pascal Maria initially awarded the point to the Scot but, with Berdych protesting, both players approached the net for what might be called a chat. The rule about interference concerns whether the ball is dead or not. There was no question that Berdych was not going to reach the ball, but Murray realized his cap had fallen while he was making the shot -- in other words, when the ball was still in play. So he agreed to replay the point, which had been break point against his serve. He put a forehand long and lost it.
The second occasion happened in the fourth-set tiebreak, when a piece of paper floated behind Berdych as he was in the act of serving a second serve at 4-2 up. The umpire rightly said, ‘Play two,” and the Czech promptly served an ace. All things considered, Murray did well to keep his cool and fight back from 2-5, winning a crucial point with an incredible cross-court flick as he was pulled wide to his forehand.
By then, Berdych had shown just what kind of a fighter he has become by forcing his way back into a match that Murray had dominated for more than two sets. There was a period in the third when the Olympic gold medalist went through three service games, winning them all at love and putting in a first serve on every point. Murray, in fact, maintained a first-serve percentage of 74 percent which, in those conditions, was a magnificent achievement.
But Berdych refused to go away and started not merely to hit the ball harder, but also tried a little serve and volley and, in all, made 66 sorties to the net, winning 34 of them.
Murray said the match was more of a mental struggle than anything. “You can’t really sort of allow yourself to enjoy it, because anything can happen,” he said. “The match turns around so quickly. He served and volleyed a couple of times, came to the net more and played a couple of good points. All of a sudden, you’re back tied at 3-3 when you’ve been in total control for two hours of the match. You can’t allow yourself to lose focus.”
That is why Murray, less liable to become distracted now, will be a tougher opponent for whomever he meets in the final than he was for Roger Federer when he lost in his only other appearance in the U.S. Open final in 2008.
“I’m obviously a lot more mature,” Murray said. “It all came round very quick. After playing Rafa (Nadal) and going from Armstrong to Ashe, playing the next day, it all seemed to go by very quick. I hope I deal with it better this time.”
He will not be lacking in superstar support. He was in the middle of answering a question when Connery, the one-time James Bond, strode into the room and called out for Sir Alex Ferguson, the legendary manager of Manchester United, to join him. They stick together, these Scots. Then Judy Murray appeared and received a hug from her son.
“You smell of wine,” Andy told his mother. “He made me have wine,” she said, referring to Ferguson. “He’s just been telling me Scotland invented the world.”
“And today we invented the wind,” Ferguson said with a laugh before joking that he was off because he never spoke to the press.
If it was a Scottish wind, Murray dealt with it superbly. In fact, both players produced a brand of tennis that was startlingly good, and the crowd was not slow to show them how much they appreciated their extraordinary skills.