— Andy Murray, who had wept in disappointment when he lost to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final in July, wept again Monday night.
It was different this time.
Murray, a slightly sarcastic, totally emotional 25-year-old Scotsman who had played in four previous major tournament finals, won his first Monday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
He withstood the furious will of second-seeded and defending champion Novak Djokovic in 4 hours 54 minutes to win the U.S. Open title, 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 in the rain-delayed final at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The length of the match tied for the longest Open final and the 22 points played in the first-set tiebreaker were the most in an Open final.
The third-seeded Murray became the first British man since Fred Perry won Wimbledon in 1936 to take one of the four Grand Slam-level tournaments.
Rather than feeling exhilarated, Murray said his emotions ran a different way.
“ ‘Relief’ is probably the best word I would use to describe how I’m feeling just now,” he said. “You do think, ‘Is this ever going to happen?’”
Djokovic said he was sad to have lost a title but regretted nothing else.
“I’m disappointed to lose the match,” he said, “but in the back of my mind I knew that I gave it all. I really, really tried to fight my way back through. But he deserved to win this Grand Slam more than anybody. He’s been so close, lost four finals. I’m definitely happy he won it.”
Djokovic, who had won three of the four majors last year, seemed to grab all the momentum after he sped through the third and fourth sets, finding a comfort zone in the swirling winds that buffeted the big stadium court all night.
But Murray, who had been steady at the start, resteadied himself in the fifth set. Even as he would hang his head after misses or muss his hair in anger when he couldn’t quite reach one of Djokovic’s lofty lobs or little drop shots, Murray was the fresher player.
“Novak is so, so strong,” Murray said. “He fights until the end in every single match. I don’t know how I managed to come through in the end.”
There had been a rally of 54 shots once and several points that lasted more than 30 shots, and it was Djokovic who seemed finally tired of it all at the end.
Before Murray served in the final game, Djokovic called for a trainer to tend to a groin injury. Some in the crowd booed, thinking Djokovic was trying to play games with Murray, who was on the brink of something so special.
But Murray kept his nerves by tossing tennis balls against the back wall and never once looked at Djokovic until the 25-year-old from Serbia stood up and walked to the service box.
In the matter of about a minute, Murray served out the match. He hit an easy overhead and an ace in those winning points and then he dropped to his knees and covered his mouth at the end.
It had not been an easy match for either man. The uncomfortably windy conditions sent garbage swirling through the air and made whistling noises as it passed through the microphone of chair umpire Jake Garner.
Yet Murray — with Scottish actor Sean Connery, coach Ivan Lendl, 1977 Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade and Manchester United Coach Alex Ferguson looking on — couldn’t have asked for a better start. As gusts approached 20 mph, Murray broke Djokovic immediately and emphatically, at love, in the first game.
That was short-lived prosperity for the Scotsman. He fell behind 0-40 on his serve in the second game, and saved two break points, but on Djokovic’s third break point Murray put a backhand squarely into the net.
And that’s how the match progressed. Murray inching ahead, Djokovic fighting back. Until there was no time left to fight.