There was a seismic shift in the tectonic plates of world tennis at the US Open yesterday as Scotsman Andy Murray fulfilled his destiny by becoming the first British male to win a Grand Slam title since 1936.
There was a certain inevitability about this. All throughout his painful tennis career Murray has been vulnerable to a deep-seeded lack of belief which saw him stumble at the last hurdle. It was never for a lack of talent that left his trophy cabinet bereft of the Grand Slam he yearned for to legitimise his place at tennis' top table and finally shrug his reputation as perennial 'little brother'.
Beating Novak Djokovic in five sets 7-6 (12-10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 over five hours, was a fitting way to etch his name in history, the diminutive Serb is exactly one week younger than Murray and the Scot has lived in his shadow for a long, long time. Of the big three though, Nadal, Federer, Djokavic, it is the Serb that Murray has always believed he could beat and has done so. Just never in a Grand Slam final.
So with Federer stunned in the quarter-finals by Tomáš Berdych and Nadal away form the game injured, this represented Murray's best chance for a title yet. The recent mentoring work of former world number 1 Ivan Lendl paid off, he'd been here before, both players lost their first four Grand Slam finals and you could see a different Murray in this year's Wimbledon final when he won started brightly an won his first set in a final, before inevitably folding before the greatness of Rodger Federer. That represented something of a watersged moment for Murray as through his tears and humility after the match he won over the last remaining doubters and naysayers to his side of the court.
Riding the triumphant wave of patriotism that was the London Olympics, demolishing Federer in the final to claim an Olympic gold medal must have been a psychological boon to the man who was beginning to feel like his destiny was within his reach. The Serb and the Scot have a lot of time for each other and had prepaired for the game by watching the World Cup qualifier between their respective nations together, a game that finished in a goalless draw. A result that suited the Scottish far better. All the signs were pointing to a Murray victory. An impromptu mid-week appearance by Alex Ferguson and Sean Connery at the semi-final post match press conference, who had evidently enjoyed the red wine in hospitality, added a light-hearted distraction in the run up to the final.
If on the Arther Ashe court of Flushing Meadows yesterday the needle swung erratically to Murray's wavelength there are some things that remain rythmicly constant such as the merciless destruction of all oposition of Serena Williams in the Women's Singles. A vintage year for the Williams sister has yealded a bumper crop as the only woman to win two Grand Slams and an Olympic Gold to boot. Williams beat world number 1 Victoria Azarenka at Arther Ashe on Sunday with a typical display of raw power, unstoppable serves and searing ground strokes that could leave tennis followers surprised that she sits seeded only fourth.
Is Serena the greatest ever? Cerainly Kim Clijsters thinks so. The hugely likeable Belgian endorsed Williams as the best ever women's tennis player and reckons she's only getting started. Clijsters' career came to an end for, for the second time, maybe not in the fashion she would have hoped, with a singles loss to British teenager Laura Robson and early doubles exit, but the hard courts of Flushing Meadows is the perfect setting to close a book on a glittering career in the tournament she had come to call her own.
Clijsters addressed the crowd after her unexpected mixed doubles exit: "It's been an honour to be a part of this lifestyle and have so many dreams come true. Life goes on but that doesn't mean I don't love the sport any more. That's one of the reasons I wanted to play mixed doubles and I would have loved to win. I'm happy that I'm closing off this chapter and starting a new life with my family. I had a great night and I couldn't have asked for a better way to finish."
The ever gracious, smiling former number 1 is the crowd's favourite and when she took her final bow here the crowd gave her a standing ovation. You could feel the love and affection for the Belgian. Always welcomed at Flushing Meadows to rapturous applause she was considered the polar opposite to a tennis diva, always with time for fans and a smile and joke with the ball boys and girls, Clijsters is a class act that will not be repeated round these parts.
Sports pages around the world were replete with 'Italian Renaissance' headlines as world wonmen's doubles number 1 Sara Errani and best friend and now ranked world number 2 Roberta Vinci won the women's doubles title on Sunday comfortably 6-4, 6-2 over Czech third seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. The second Grand Slam doubles title of the year for the Italian duo, the two friends from Bologna and Taranto respectively, are enjoying their tennis. However the two were foes for a day when Errani and Vinci faced off in the women's quarter-final match, with Errani the victor facing eventual champion Williams in the Semi.
By Hugo Mc Cafferty
AP Photo/Darron Cummings