Monday, September 10, 2012

US Open: The Finale

It ended up being a golden summer for Serena Williams and Andy Murray as they both captured not only the gold medal at this year's Olympics, but also the US Open title. For her it was her 4th US Open title and 15th overall. For him, it was his very first Grand Slam title. Winning, however, didn't come easy for either one.

Serena came into the match against top seed Victoria Azarenka as the overwhelming favorite having led their H2H 9-1 and the first set signaled a routine rout after Serena won 6-2. Serena was perhaps thinking about lost opportunities and unnecessary drama that cost her the title the past couple years as she remained focused and more importantly her serve remained dialed in. Azarenka, however, started hitting harder and taking more chances in the second set. Coupled with Serena's serve and footwork going walkabout Azarenka managed to win the next set with an identical 6-2. This was when the match went from great to classic as this became the first 3-set women's final since 1995! Also both players had excellent 3-set records (Serena was 5-0 in 3-set slam finals and Azarenka was 12-0 in 3-set matches this year). The third set was certainly more competitive with Azarenka taking the lead by breaking Serena in the 7th game to go up 4-3 then holding serve for 5-3, just one game away from her first US Open title. Unfortunately that was one game too many. After Serena held for 5-4, Azarenka tightened serving for the match going down Love-40 and eventually lost her serve to bring the score to 5-5. Serena held again for 6-5 putting the pressure right back at Azarenka who was a point away from the tiebreak, but was pushed to a few deuces by a relentless Serena. A couple of errors later from Azarenka and Serena has won the US Open title to go along with her singles and doubles trophies from Wimbledon and golden medals from the Olympics. Her ranking of 4 will remain unchanged after the tournament, but is there any doubt who the best female player right now?

It has been a long time coming for Murray to lift the championship trophy. Prior to this year's US Open, Murray had an abysmal slam final record of 0-4 (1-12 in sets) and it's been a longer wait for Britain who has been waiting for a homegrown slam champion since Fred Perry in 1936. But finally all the waiting can stop as Murray impressively won his maiden slam in a five-set epic thriller against defending champion Novak Djokovic. The setting and conditions could not have been any more dramatic. The men had to play a Monday final for the fifth straight year and in windy and cold conditions to boot. Both players started off slow, perhaps getting used to it all, but eventually the first set came down to a tie-break that ended up being a nice summation of the match as a whole. There were momentum shifts, 30+ shot rallies, and high drama. Murray finally edged out Djokovic 12-10 giving himself huge momentum (winner of the first set in matches between these two have went on to win the match every time). Murray carried that momentum in the second set going up a double break for 4-0 as he took advantage of a frustrated Djokovic. Refusing to go without a fight, Djokovic did just that storming back into the set and bringing it back on serve 5-5. But Murray would win that second set 7-5 making his dream that much closer. That's when Djokovic would take over as the Serb took the 3rd and 4th set easily most likely due to Murray tightening up and Djokovic himself serving and hitting better. One set to determine the champion and this time Murray grabbed the moment. He broke Djokovic twice early going up 3-0. Djokovic would break back and hold serve for 3-2, but Murray would win the next two games for 5-2, a game away from history. Djokovic took a timeout at that moment to get the trainer and so Murray waited just a little bit longer. Murray stormed to a 40-Love lead giving him triple match point. At 40-15, Murray served and Djokovic blasted a forehand that unlike last year's Miracle Shot went out giving the Scot his first ever Grand Slam title. The match tied for being the longest US Open Men's Final at 4 hours and 54 minutes. But I think Murray and the rest of Britain would agree that went quickly compared to how long they had to wait for this special moment.

Bob and Mike Bryan won their 12th Grand Slam title, a record, by beating 5th seeds Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek while Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci captured the Women's Doubles title by defeating 3rd seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. Meanwhile the shotgun team that beat Kim Clijsters at her final match at the Us Open, Ekaterina Makarova and Bruno Soares, won the Mixed Doubles title taking out 4th seeds Kveta Peschke and Marcin Matkowski. And with that, we say goodbye to New York until next year!

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