I had an aggregation assignment this week for a Columbia class, and with only one thing on my mind, I wrote an indisputable argument for why Andy Murray would win this year’s US Open. Then I decided it was not, in fact, indisputable, and that publishing the article would jinx fate into laughing evilly and ripping the much-deserved trophy out of Murray’s outstretched arms. Now that it turns out I had incredible prescience (my mum said so), I thought I would publish the article. So here it is, written with absolutely no bias whatsoever, on the morning of 10 September 2012 before the Murray-Djokovic US Open final.
SEVEN REASONS ANDY MURRAY WILL WIN THE US OPEN FINAL
By Lauren Davidson
British sports fans have too long peeked at games through twisted fingers, shouted themselves hoarse with frustration and trundled home from the pub, head hung in despair. Aside from for the gloomy horde of English football fans, still clinging onto the fading memory of 1966, nowhere is this truer than in tennis – a sport that has been without a British male grand slam champion since Fred Perry in 1936.
But despite decades of dashed dreams, British fans are holding their breath in the hope that this could be the year a tennis trophy comes home. Andy Murray faces defending champion Novak Djokovic at the final of the US Open today – and here are seven reasons the Scot is set to win.
1. The conditions suit Murray better than Djokovic:
Djokovic may be the king of the hard court, but Murray is better at braving the storm (perhaps something to do with childhood years spent in Scottish winters – and summers, which aren’t much better) – a crucial factor when it comes to surviving the oft-brutal weather conditions of the US Open. In the semi-final on Saturday, Murray withstood the winds better than his opponent Tomas Berdych did – and better than Djokovic when he battled David Ferrer.
Bryan Armen Graham at CNN’s Sports Illustrated describes the scene:
“Winds upwards of 20 m.p.h. entered the stadium from the southeast, spiraling downward from the mezzanine and whipping detritus across the court like tumbleweeds. During one point a changeover chair clattered onto the court, spilling the contents of Murray’s bag onto the blue DecoTurf… All of which heightened the impact of Murray’s composed performance… It’s obvious the 25-year-old is as ready as he’ll ever be.”
By contrast, similar conditions later on Saturday left Djokovic 5-2 games down to David Ferrer. It was only when the semi-final match was postponed until Sunday that the Serbian star was able to claim his spot in the final – which also means Murray has had a day longer than Djokovic to recover his strength and perfect his strategy.
2. The Lendl effect:
Since he hired Czech tennis champion Ivan Lendl as his coach back in January, Murray’s performance and attitude have seen striking improvement. The two players have been compared for their dour manner and game style, but there is another similarity which points towards a Murray victory in New York this year.
Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post delves further into the relationship between coach and player:
“The Lendl-Murray team is a fascinating one on a number of levels. The two share the dubious distinction as the only players in tennis history to lose in their first four Grand Slam finals. Lendl, of course, went on to win eight Slams in his remarkable career. Murray’s story has yet to be written in full.”
If Lendl’s skill, encouragement and advice is rubbing off on Andy Murray, let’s hope the Scottish protégé will also follow in Lendl’s footprints in making his fifth grand slam final his first trophy win.
3. Murray has a good history with the US Open:
Back in 2008, the Arthur Ashe stadium became the first court to host Murray as a grand slam finalist. But his relationship with the American tennis tournament has its foundations further back in time.
Simon Briggs at the Daily Telegraph digs into history:
“Murray’s triumph at the Olympic Games was a wonderful thing, but a gold medal was not the prize he would have grown up dreaming about. It was the US Open that made the first big impression on him as a junior — not least because he shot into the public eye for the first time with his victory in the 2004 boys’ tournament here.”
Coloured just like the Scottish flag, the white lines and blue base of the US Open courts gave Murray his first grand slam win as a junior. Who’s to say the same won’t be true of his adult career?
4. The New York crowd loves him:
Like all good British sportsmen, Andy Murray has had a hit-and-miss relationship with his fellow countrymen. Sometimes they love him, sometimes they love him a lot less. Since his emotional message of gratitude to fans after losing in the Wimbledon final earlier this year, British hearts have warmed to the sour Scot – but perhaps he’s more at home among the cheering crowds of the US Open.
Oliver Brown of the Daily Telegraph finds the Big apple in little Andy:
“His cult of personality assumes particular power in the eyes of New Yorkers. Where Murray’s flashes of petulance can alienate the aficionados in Britain, his tantrums are more attuned to the typically brusque attitudes prevalent in this city… His penchant for screaming at himself, or hurling his racket to the ground, is received enthusiastically here in Corona Park, where fans think nothing of shouting out during points.”
Brown quotes Doug Robson, tennis correspondent for USA Today, who believes Murray’s teary show at Wimbledon only cemented his place in American support:
“When US sports fans see someone put everything on the line in pursuit of a lifetime goal and just fail, it creates a groundswell of support and appreciation.”
5. This is the golden summer for Murray:
Murray broke his finals losing streak by winning gold at this summer’s London Olympics – beating tennis god Roger Federer, who had wrenched the Wimbledon trophy from Murray’s fingertips just weeks before.
And, as Reuters noted, Murray’s performance was top-notch:
“Apart from going 15-40 down in the first game of the match Murray was as close to perfection it is possible to be on a tennis court, producing a display of power, precision and touch that not even Federer could match. From the moment that Murray moved 4-2 ahead in the first set he barely gave Federer a look-in, rattling off nine games in a row to seize complete control of the final.”
Meanwhile, Djokovic did not even rank, losing to Juan Martin del Potro in the bronze medal match. Perhaps the golden stars of fate are twinkling over Andy Murray this summer – and how could such a thrashing performance against the formidable Federer not give Murray a solid confidence boost?
6. Last time they played, Murray beat Djokovic:
All in all, the odds may be in Djokovic’s favour, and it’s true that the only time the two have met at a grand slam final – last year’s Australian Open – the Serb thrashed the Scot. But things are never as simple as they seem.
Douglas Robson at USA Today has the stats:
“Djokovic leads Murray 8-6 in head-to-head meetings but they have split their four matches in 2012. Djokovic beat Murray on hardcourts in five sets in the Melbourne semifinals, but Murray won their last meeting on grass in the semifinals at the Olympics… “Most of our matches that we played against each other were very close, and only small margins decide the winner,” said Djokovic… But Murray has clearly been closing the gap under the more aggressive approach advocated by Lendl, and the confidence gained from his summer success.”
The sportsmen have clocked up two wins apiece in the four games they have played against each other this season. If Murray keeps in mind his 7-5 7-5 win over Djokovic in their semi-final match at the London Olympics last month, he just might sway the odds in his direction.
7. Boris Becker says so:
And if Becker says it, it must be true.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Boris Becker says:
“These two guys are so evenly matched that, when they played their first grand slam final 18 months ago, we weren’t sure which one of them would kick on and make a push for world No. 1. It turned out to be Djokovic… But he hasn’t been quite the same player in 2012. In the last few big matches — the French Open final, the two semis at Wimbledon — he has not managed to produce his best… Djokovic hasn’t lost in a hard-court slam since Rafael Nadal beat him in the US Open final two years ago. But still, he is the man who is defending his position, while Murray is the one coming on strong. The momentum is on Andy’s side this year.”
Sports Illustrated’s Bryan Armen Graham sums it up:
“The door to opportunity seldom requires a picked lock, only the right combination. For Murray, already regarded by many as the greatest player never to win a major, it’s hard to reckon a more favorable scenario.”
So there you have it. Later today, Scotland and Serbia go head to head for the second time this weekend – but unlike in Saturday’s 0-0 football World Cup qualifying match, in tennis there is always a winner. And this year, it might just be Andy Murray.