Dealing with 20 mph (32 kph) wind that blew a changeover chair onto the U.S. Open court on one point and yanked his hat off during another, Andy Murray navigated his way into his fifth Grand Slam final.
Now he’ll try to win his first Grand Slam title – and first for any British man in 76 years.
Adapting to the conditions far better than his opponent did, Olympic champion Murray came back to beat mistake-prone Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (7) in a rain-delayed and wind-swept semifinal on Saturday.
”It was brutal,” Murray said about his 3-hour, 58-minute victory. ”Hard to describe. You had to focus for every single point. … Some of the hardest conditions I’ve ever played in, for sure, and I come from Scotland, so that’s saying something.”
Defending champion Novak Djokovic and fourth-seeded David Ferrer played the other semifinal straight afterwards.
Showers in the nighttime forecast prompted the tournament to postpone the women’s final between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka until Sunday.
It will be the fourth time in five years that the U.S. Open women’s championship was pushed back to Sunday. The men’s final has been moved from Sunday to Monday in each of the past four years, and that remained a possibility – if Djokovic and Ferrer weren’t able to complete their semifinal.
The U.S. Open is the only Grand Slam tournament that schedules the men’s semifinals on Saturday. Next year, for the first time, a day off will be inserted between the semifinals and final, either by shifting the semis to Friday or by changing the title match to Monday.
This event is the first major since the 2004 French Open with neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal in the semifinals. Federer was beaten by Berdych in the quarterfinals, while Nadal did not enter the field, sidelined by a partially torn tendon in his left knee.
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have combined to win 29 of the last 30 major titles, a string that began at the 2005 French Open.
The third-seeded Murray will get yet another chance to put his name on that list. The last major singles trophies for a British man were won by Fred Perry at Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships in 1936.
Murray is playing confidently after beating Federer to win a gold medal for Britain at the London Games in August, about a month after losing to Federer in the Wimbledon final.
Before that, the Scot appeared in the final at the U.S. Open in 2008, and the Australian Open in 2010 and 2011. Only one other man in tennis history was defeated in his first four major finals – Ivan Lendl, who just so happens to be Murray’s coach and was on hand on Saturday.
While eliminating Federer on Wednesday, 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Berdych pounded his flat forehands right where he wanted them and made a total of 21 unforced errors in four sets. Bothered by the swirling air on Saturday, the sixth-seeded Berdych nearly eclipsed that in the opening set alone, with 19, and finished with 64 unforced errors. Murray made only 20.
As Murray hit a serve to start the second set’s last game, his changeover chair was blown over by a gust and, like tumbleweed, rolled onto the blue court, spilling all sorts of other items, too – racket bag, white towel, etc.
A let was called, canceling the point, and both players smiled at the chaos. Murray held there to even the match at a set apiece.
Another strong burst knocked Berdych off-balance as he was about to serve to begin the third, and he wound up being broken at love.
Berdych repeatedly found simply launching a ball overhead for his service toss problematic, often letting it drop to the court without taking a swing. When he did actually serve, there still were plenty of issues, including six double faults.
The match began more than an hour late after heavy rain – and even a tornado warning. That all dissipated, but the wind remained.
On the fifth point, with Berdych serving at 40-15, the automatic sensor that indicates a serve touched the net cord, requiring a let call, blared its loud signal – even though the ball didn’t make contact. Berdych complained, and chair umpire Pascal Maria, his tie waving this way and that, explained, ”It beeped because of the wind.”
Minutes later, with Murray facing a break point in the fourth game, he raced forward to get to a short shot, and a combination of his momentum and the wind pulled his white baseball cap off his head as he made contact with the ball. At the other end, Berdych failed to get to Murray’s response, and Maria initially awarded the point to Murray, making the score deuce.
But Berdych argued that he was distracted by the flying hat and engaged the official in a bit of an argument. Murray approached and injected himself into the conversation, asking Berdych whether he was certain the hat affected the outcome of the point.
”I’m just asking if you’re 100 percent sure,” Murray repeated.
It was a true act of sportsmanship, leading to Maria’s ruling that the point should be replayed. Murray tried to chip a lob that landed long, and Berdych got the point – and the break.
Murray hit a ball in anger, grabbed the troublesome hat and walked to dump it on the sideline, muttering ”nonsense, nonsense, nonsense.” He looked or sounded disgruntled at other times, including when he tugged the two legs of his dark shorts up to his waist.
The wind also added a booming soundtrack as it came in contact with Maria’s microphone, a loud noise that prompted this comment from seven-time major champion John McEnroe on the CBS broadcast: ”I’m annoyed – and I’m not even playing.”
Ballkids scurried to collect items tossed about by the air, from paper napkins to plastic bags and other debris. And through it all, both players were forced to adjust to swerving shots made tricky by the wind, recalibrating at the last possible second. Murray, certainly, was more capable of doing just that, and he used all sorts of slices and spins, dinks and dunks, to frustrate Berdych.
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