When the first set of this US Open quarterfinal began at just before 10pm Eastern time (3am UK time), the over 20,000 people gathered at the Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows in New York were
When the first set of this US Open quarterfinal began at just before 10pm Eastern time (3am UK time), the over 20,000 people gathered at the Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows in New York were expecting a high quality game of tennis, featuring Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.
This would be the first grand slam performance since playing together at Wimbledon, where Murray beat him in straight sets.
What came were two extended sets, leading to tiebreaking circumstances – Djokovic took the first set while Murray took the second set, each set taking over an hour.
As the hour of midnight approached, an abbreviated third set emerged as Djokovic took it within 30 minutes, appearing a new man, still with vigour and determination, with the hope to meet Kei Nishikori of Japan in the semi-final.
By 12:30 Eastern (5:30 UK time), it was 2-1. The strain of chronic back problems had gotten to Murray, but too wanted to have the chance to face Nishikori. Yet, it was evident there were problems, as it was seen at the Stadium.
In the end, as the skies under lights became pitch black, the night belonged to Djokovic – winning in 4 sets, 7-6, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4.
‘Established top player’
His match against Nishikori will be the eighth time he appears in the semi-finals, according to a report from the BBC.
“We both gave our best,” Djokovic said after the win. “At times, the tennis was not that nice, we made a lot of unforced errors. We played two sets in two-and-a-half hours and I didn’t expect any less.”
Djokovic, while saying he was pleased with the result, praised Murray and his efforts, in remarks according to the BBC report.
“Of course, I’m very glad to get through to another semi-final,” Djokovic said. “Andy has changed his game for better in the last couple of years. He’s an established top player, someone who has immense quality.”
Murray said according to a report from The Guardian that he had fought hard, however, not enough.
“Towards the end I tried to hang in as best I could,” Murray said. “The pace of my serve slowed significantly towards the end of the third set.”
Rest, recovery and redemption
For Murray, the focus is on the year ahead. In an interview with the BBC’s Russell Fuller, his coach, Amelie Mauresmo, despite saying there was no reason why Murray could not win, said he may not be at his best until next year.
Murray had been recovering from back surgery, and ample time would have been given for him to rest before the Australian Open kicks off the 2015 series of grand slam tournaments.
Yet, despite the concerns, Murray had been keen to show the world that he was still a force to be reckoned with in the sport of tennis, chronic back pain or not.
As Fuller noted in a tweet, his performance indicated bright times ahead going into 2015.
Murray was his equal in the first two sets: he’s provided the strongest evidence of the year in New York that 2015 can be so much brighter
— Russell Fuller (@russellcfuller) September 4, 2014
Still, it had been an epic sporting match between two of the top tennis players in the world, and proved that in this, their 21st meeting, that they both were determined and ready for what was ahead.
Indeed, when they meet again in the Grand Slam tournaments next year, they likely will both appear ready again to conquer tennis – Murray free of pain and Djokovic ready with Coach Boris Becker to repeat the hunt for gold.
However, until then, the ball remains in Murray’s court, as he will look for redemption and continue what has been a rewarding decade for him on the court.
What do you think? What is at stake for Murray moving forward? Have your say in the comments section below.