BRITISH No1 Andy Murray must tonight defeat Novak Djokovic in the US Open final if he is to capitalise on some of the finest form of his career and secure a so far elusive first grand slam title.
In a matter of months Murray has dismissed fears over his fitness to at Wimbledon produce his most convincing grand slam challenge in a final defeat to Roger Federer before beating the Swiss to Olympic gold and ultimately reaching tonight’s New York final. That he is yet to win a first Major inevitably adds to the growing pressure but the conviction and belief defiantly displayed in the Wimbledon final, Olympics victory and in reaching tonight’s showpiece underlines an internal evolution that suggests his first slam success could be imminent, something in which the Scottish third seed himself strongly believes.
“Winning against [Djokovic] in the Olympic semi-final was a big win for me,” said the world No3, who is competing in his fifth Major final.
“I know how tough it is to beat the top, top players in big matches. Obviously it will be an unbelievably tough match. He moves very well on the hard courts. He’s a top, top player, one of the best players that’s played. The year he had last year is incredible.
“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.
“But winning a major is the last thing that I really want to do.
“It means a lot to me. You saw at Wimbledon how much that meant to me. It’s obviously not easy to lose another slam final, so I hope this one is a different story.
“I know that I’m going to give everything I have on the court. That’s all I can do.
“I’ve not necessarily played my best tennis this week but I’ve just fought hard in all of the matches and found a way to come through them and I’ll do the same again in the final.”
Of the 14 fixtures between the two, Djokovic has succeeded in securing victory in eight and was again impressive – if somewhat fortunate given the rain’s intervention at a point when David Ferrer comfortably led – in yesterday’s 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over the Spaniard.
“It’s a huge relief to get through,” he said. “David’s a great competitor, he’s one of the fittest guys on tour and he never gives up.
“I don’t think there is any clear favourite [in tonight’s final]. He’s looking for his first title, I’m sure he’s going to be very motivated. I hope we can come up with the best tennis for this crowd.”
AMERICA’S Serena Williams last night won the 15th Grand Slam of her illustrious career with a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 victory over Victoria Azarenka in the US Open final.
As is almost customary in the vast majority of her victories, Williams’s superior power and serve were the defining qualities in securing her victory and though the world No1 fought back to take the second set and lead late on in the third – even serving for the match at 5-3 – Williams recovered to seal the win.
“I’m so happy to have gotten so far,” Williams said afterwards.
SO NEAR YET SO FAR
Murray’s grand slam final woe
■ US OPEN, 2008
Records maiden win over Rafael Nadal to become the first Brit in a grand slam final since 1997, but loses in straights sets to Roger Federer
■ AUSTRALIAN OPEN, 2010
Beats Nadal en route to another final against Federer, this time in Melbourne, but is again beaten in three
■ AUSTRALIAN OPEN, 2011
Murray makes it back-to-back finals Down Under, where Novak Djokovic kicks off his landmark year by beating the Scot in straight sets
■ WIMBLEDON, 2012
Ends 74-year wait for home men’s finalist but breaks down in tears after losing to Federer, despite winning his first grand slam final set