- Last Updated: 10:26 AM, September 11, 2012
- Posted: 3:02 AM, September 11, 2012
It was the best of times, it was the best of times for Andy Murray and all of Great Britain last night.
Murray took London’s Olympic torch and burned his way through the U.S. Open field with his gritty baseline game and mental and physical stamina. British history was made and the Flushing fans loved every drop of it.
At windswept Arthur Ashe Stadium, Murray won his first Grand Slam title to break the British male Slam drought that lasted 76 years ... and five heart-stopping hours.
Fred Perry, who won Britain’s last Slam in 1936 at the then-U.S. Championships, can now rest in peace as Murray snapped his personal 0-for-4 record in Slam finals with a Flushing flourish.
“I’m sure he’s smiling from up there,’’ Murray quipped.
After blowing a 2-0 lead in sets, Murray came on in the fifth set and captured the nearly five-hour classic as the crowd showered him with ovations throughout the 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 victory. Murray dethroned defending Open champion Novak Djokovic in a baseline slugfest that saw one rally last 55 strokes.
At 4 hours, 54 minutes, it tied for the longest match in Open finals history.
“I get asked about [the drought] the last four years, at every press conference,’’ Murray said. “I knew how important this is for British tennis and British sport. I don’t have to be asked that stupid question again.’’
And then the Scotsman laughed.
“I can put this behind me and hopefully win more,’’ Murray said. “I hope it inspires some kids to play tennis and also takes away the notion that British tennis players choke or don’t win.’’
The questions about Murray forever ended at 9:03 last night, well past midnight in England. On match point, Djokovic swatted a forehand return long — illustrating his frustration with the swirling winds. Murray immediately put his hands to his face, touching it to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. He bent down in a crouch, absorbing the moment.
Murray said he cried on the court but mostly, true to his British reserve, he spoke in monotones in the post-match press conference.
When asked why he wasn’t smiling more in the wake of history, Murray said: “I think there’s a little bit of shock. We’re learning from [coach Ivan] Lendl. I’m very happy inside, even if I’m not showing it.’’
Murray handled the wild wind much better than Djokovic with his array of slices and heavy topspin. Though Djokovic steadied to win the third and fourth sets, Murray had extra zest in the fifth set, winning the majority of the marathon rallies as the Serbian began cramping in his legs. Fittingly, the P.A. system played “Eye of the Tiger” following the fourth set as the two warriors came out for the fifth.
When it was over, the P.A. played “Chariots of Fire” — fitting since the famous opening scenes were shot on a Scotland beach — and “Start Me Up,” by Britain’s Rolling Stones.
Murray’s accomplishment comes less than a month after the London Olympics in which Murray led a brigade of British athletes to the top of the podium, climaxing a historic summer.
“Coming into this tournament, I felt more confident than before any Grand Slam,’’ Murray said. “It would have been nice to have spoken to someone from Britain that had won major tournaments before. ‘’
Murray won a record-setting first set for the ages. It lasted 87 minutes — with the longest tiebreaker in an Open men’s final, 12-10. After squandering five set points, Murray finally got it right, blasting a serve in which Djokovic knocked long.
Murray was the fitter man in the fifth, returning every Djokovic bullet with spectacular baseline defense that had the fans and wind howling.
Just when it looked as if the British curse would continue, Murray went up two breaks in the fifth set at 3-0. In the opening game of the set, Murray crushed a forehand deep in the rally on break point.
“Any loss is a bad loss,’’ Djokovic said. “But there is no doubt he deserved to win a Grand Slam.’’
At 25, he might just be getting started.Follow @NYPostsports