Five thoughts on Andy Murray defeating Tomas Berdych to reach the US Open final:
There are times in tennis – and this was one of them as the players’ plastic chairs, baseball caps and hot-dog wrappers were blown across the Arthur Ashe Stadium – when dealing with Mother Nature is as tricky as trying to keep Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal quiet. “It was brutal. Chairs were flying on to the court. These are some of the hardest conditions I’ve played in, and I’m from Scotland,” said Murray. For the first time since the 2004 French Open, which was back in the days when Gaston Gaudio was able to win a grand slam tournament, Federer and Nadal are both missing from the semi-finals of a major. There were three protagonists at Flushing Meadows: a Briton, a Czech and the tail-end of the American summer. Tornado warnings, and rain bouncing off the concrete, had pushed the start of the match back by more than an hour, and the wind had not subsided by the time Murray and Berdych made it on to the blue and green cement. Whoever mastered Mother Nature, and their own frustrations, was likely to be the one who made the final, and ultimately that player was the Scot.
No man has ever lost his first five grand slam finals. Ivan Lendl, after losing his first four, won his first grand slam title on his fifth appearance in a major final (he came from two sets down to beat John McEnroe in the 1984 French Open final), and now his employer is into his fifth title-match.
In the modern game, you’re unlikely to have players spewing verbal shrapnel at each in the semi-finals of the US Open. But while there was no swearing, or words out of turn, from these two, there was an interesting exchange at the net. The key moment of the opening set was when Murray’s hat took flight and dropped on to the ground while a point was still live. Murray and Berdych spoke at the net, with Murray asking his opponent whether he was 100 per cent sure whether the falling hat had been a hindrance. The point was replayed, Murray was broken, he discarded the “nonsense, nonsense, nonsense” hat, and he lost the set. But Murray steadied himself, and worked out how to play in the conditions.
A few games into the fourth set, it was almost as if Berdych had heard what the former pros were saying about him, and was galvanised into playing his best tennis of the match. “Berdych has one of the most fragile minds in men’s tennis,” said the watching Boris Becker, who further accused the Czech of “going through the motions” during his first appearance in a US Open semi-final. In another commentary box, John McEnroe was making disparaging remarks about Berdych’s tennis. Murray had a point for a 4-0 lead in the fourth set. But Berdych took the set to a tiebreaker, and had a point to level the match. Murray, though, won the breaker. Murray has had plenty of hairy moments during this tournament (see his matches against Feliciano Lopez and Marin Cilic).
It was to Murray’s great advantage, on a day when he played for almost four hours, that he was scheduled for the first semi-final, with defending champion Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer playing second. Ferrer was leading 5-2 in the opening set – Djokovic’s mind was all over the place – when the match was suspended, and the stadium evacuated, because of the threat of an approaching tornado. So, with Ferrer and Djokovic to resume their match on Sunday, the men’s singles final of the US Open will be played on a Monday for the fifth successive year.