Five thoughts on Andy Murray’s victory over Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals of the US Open:
This was threatening to be the time when the Olympic champion got bumped out of the US Open while New York City looked the other way. You try getting people’s attention at Flushing Meadows when, over on the other side, on the Arthur Ashe Stadium, an emotional Andy Roddick is saying his goodbyes after a defeat by Juan Martin del Potro ended his career, when Roddick is thanking his late agent Ken Meyerson, and Brooklyn Decker is weeping and shaking behind sunglasses. For a set and a half, the Louis Armstrong Stadium didn’t have much of a crowd or an atmosphere. Murray, curiously low on energy, found himself a set and 5-1 down. But then, once Roddick walked off Ashe and into retirement, Armstrong started to fill up (Pippa Middleton was one of those who migrated across), Ivan Lendl took his cap off, and everything changed. Cilic had a point for a two-set lead, but it was Murray who won the second set on a tiebreak. Cilic was not going to win from there, never mind how many times the Virgin Mary is supposed to have appeared in the town where he grew up.
For all Murray’s improvements, this turnaround wouldn’t have been possible without Cilic choking. “Cilic blew that second set,” said the watching Boris Becker. From leading by a set and 5-1, Cilic won just three more games (the fourth set was 6-0). This was hardly the match which exploded the idea that Cilic can be brittle under pressure, and you wonder whether he will ever do his talents justice at the slams. “Cilic is going to have a heavy night in New York,” Becker said.
Was Murray thrown by the late switch of courts (this was originally scheduled to be played on the Arthur Ashe Stadium)? Murray is at his best after dark in New York, on flood-lit cement, and on Ashe. His best tennis of this tournament came the round earlier, when he dismantled Milos Raonic under the lights on Ashe. This match started at 5pm local time, and the darker it got, the better Murray played. Murray will now play the rest of the tournament on Ashe.
Murray can’t start like this in a possible semi-final meeting with Roger Federer and think he has a chance of beating the world number one and Wimbledon champion (for what would be his first victory against the Swiss at a major).
After most comebacks at slams, there are concerns about preparing the body for the next round. Not this time. This wasn’t a particularly long match, at three hours. Plus he has a couple of days off before Super Saturday.