British tennis fans are getting rather used to seeing Andy Murray in major finals. First there was Wimbledon where tennis mixed with tears, but a month later he was back on Centre Court, stealing the Olympic title from under Roger Federer’s nose. Finally the home crowd had a champion to cheer.
Fast-forward two months across the pond and Murray is in the US Open final for a second time. The mighty Swiss may have fallen unexpectedly to Tomas Berdych in the semi-finals, but the calibre of the Brit’s opponent when he steps out into the Arthur Ashe arena is no less formidible.
Novak Djokovic – Murray’s friend and childhood rival – may have taken his foot off the ignition during the Scotsman’s straight sets Olympic semi-final victory last month but don’t underestimate his form coming into tonight’s showdown. The Serb has played superbly throughout the tournament, picking off class opposition and dropping just a set to Juan Martin del Potro along the way. He is playing in his third consecutive final at Flushing Meadows and hasn’t lost a match in a hard-court major tournament in two years – the sort of stats we expect of Roger Federer.
In comparison, the 25-year-old Scotsman is yet to win a Slam, having played in four major finals, only to see his hopes of victory go begging. Their head-to-head falls in Djokovic’s favour – of their fourteen matches he has won eight. But this season’s partnership with coach Ivan Lendl (an eight-time Grand Slam victor himself) has seen a new Murray – a tennis player with the belief that he’s capable of landing the prize.
With his Olympic victory still fresh in his memory, Murray finally exudes the confidence of a champion: “Winning the Olympics did, for me, take a bit of the pressure off. I did feel a lot better after that. I maybe had less doubts about myself and my place in the game just now.
“But winning a major is the last thing that I really want to achieve. I know that on Monday I’m going to give everything I have on the court. That’s all I can do.”
And of his opponent? “Obviously it will be an unbelievably tough match. He moves very well on hard courts. He’s a top, top player, one of the best that’s played. The year he had last year is incredible.”
“It’s obviously not easy to lose another slam final, so I hope this one is a different story.” So do we, Andy, so do we….
Coverage of Andy Murray’s US Open final begins on Sky Sports 1 at 8:00pm. If you don’t have Sky, you can listen to commentary on Radio 5 Live, also starting at 8:00pm.