US Open 2012: Murray beats Berdych & elements to reach final
US Open 2012: British No1 Andy Murray beats sixth seed Tomas Berdych 5-7 6-2 6-1 7-6 (9-7) to reach the US Open final
It was Super Saturday at the 2012 US Open, so the forecast must be rain. Well, the threat of rain at least—enough to ensure that Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych made an early start to the most intense day of tennis in the calendar.
Uniquely, and controversially, the last Saturday of the US Open features not just the two men’s semi-finals but also the women’s final. It’s a blockbuster of a schedule but achieved by less than perfect means. For in practice, both men and women play their semis and their final on back-to-back days.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, rain delays could ensure that the second semi was played much later than the first, so Novak Djokovic or David Ferrer might have considerably less than 24 hours to recover.
And so the rain—such a frequent visitor to the Grand Slam venue least equipped to cope with it—can become no small inconvenience. It has, indeed, taken the year’s final Grand Slam to a third Monday for the last four years.
But whatever weather was unleashed on Arthur Ashe, there was no question that Murray and Berdych, playing first, had the better deal. Theirs promised to be a long, close contest, and that threatened to push the other semi well into the evening.
Berdych broke into the top 30 almost seven years ago and has remained there ever since. Gradually he edged his way to the top tier with one of the most powerful games on the tour, being a constant in the top 10 for more than two years and at No7 through the whole of 2012.
But despite the overall consistency of the 26-year-old, he has produced both hot and cold performances through every season.
In 2010, for example, he reached the semis at Roland Garros and then the final of Wimbledon, beating Murray at the former and Roger Federer and Djokovic at the latter. But he went on to lose in the first round of the US Open and won only four more matches that year.
This season, though, he fell early at Wimbledon only to emerge as one of the strongest players in the US Open Series, and carried that form through a heavy-weight quarter that saw him take out No27 Sam Querrey, No11 seed Nicolas Almagro and, once again, Federer in the quarters.
What’s more, Berdych brought with him a 4-2 advantage over Murray, 2-1 on hard courts, and his season win-loss figures, 46-16, did not look too different from those of the Wimbledon finalist and Olympic gold medallist, 45-11.
But Murray, riding a wave of confidence from his London successes, brought with him consistency of an altogether higher level. This was his seventh semi in the last eight Grand Slams, and he was aiming to reach his fifth final. Should he do so, he would replace Rafael Nadal as No3 in the world.
Despite their early start, though, it was not early enough: a torrential rain storm flooded Flushing Meadows long before they got on court, so play began late rather than early, and it began in sombre conditions and high winds. And so pessimistic was the weather forecast that the women’s final was rescheduled for Sunday—so already a far from ideal Super Saturday.
It was not super, either, for the first two players. Murray and Berdych shared Arthur Ashe with very few spectators and a fearsome wind which, in theory, favoured the better movement, footwork and range of shot options of Murray.
Sure enough, Berdych, struggling to manage his high ball toss, came under pressure on his second service game, and after 12 minutes of sliced backhands and looping forehands from Murray, the Czech was broken.
But now Murray served into the wind and, conceding a let on a point that he had won because his hat blew onto the court, he too faced a break point, Berdych took it, and they were all square.
There was little compromise in the Berdych game, as there rarely is, and he stayed on the offensive—45 per cent of his shots were taken inside the baseline compared with less than 20 per cent of Murray’s. But it was, by and large, a slow and tortuous hour, both making more errors than winners in appalling conditions.
Then at 5-6 down, and again serving into the wind, Murray could not penetrate the court and Berdych took advantage with his huge forehand to break for the set, 7-5.
Murray retaliated quickly, though, playing the best point of the match—a lob and a reactive volley winner—to earn a break. He broke again, his reward for becoming more aggressive and taking time away from Berdych. The errors increased from the Czech while Murray’s dropped to a mere four as he closed out the set, 6-2.
The third set affirmed the extra confidence that Murray had gained from stepping into the court and taking control of the match. His serve began to find its mark and his backhand flowed.
It brought a quick break, and then another, and he led 5-1 without dropping a point on his first serve. With the foundation of the Berdych game undermined by the wind, he appeared to have no fall-back position and Murray broke a third time to take the set, 6-1.
It began to look as though Berdych was a beaten man, cowed and unhappy with the conditions—even chairs and kit bags ended up on the court. Here was an example of varied shot-making, fitness and mobility trumping simple power: Murray could keep the ball in play, Berdych could not; 18 errors to the former, 47 to the latter.
Murray broke in the opening game of the fourth but, contrary to appearances, Berdych was not quite a beaten man yet. With nothing to lose, he began to swing his forehand more freely, thumping the ball past Murray and then producing his fastest serves of the match, over 130mph. He broke back and served to take the fourth set to a tie-break.
With his serve now firing, and confidently going after his forehand, Berdych rushed to a 3-0 lead as his winner count soared above even the first set.
Murray had to find his best returning to contain the Berdych serve, and he managed to level at 5-5, but then faced set point. Murray saved it with an attacking backhand and drew an error from Berdych to earn match point. An ace from the Czech saved it but he overhit one more forehand and this time, Murray had match point on his serve. He made no mistake, and earned himself a place in his second US Open final.
His first, back in 2008, was his first Grand Slam final and he lost to Federer. Now he is a more complete player, more mature and more confident—and he will need all those qualities to beat whoever comes through the other semi-final.
Murray lost to Djokovic in a very close contest in the semis of the Australian Open in January and then in the final of Miami, but he beat him in Dubai and most recently at the Olympics. As for Ferrer, Murray lost to him in the quarters of the French Open but beat him in the quarters of Wimbledon.
So whether the men’s final is played on Sunday or Monday, it will be tough, but at the fifth time of asking, New York, one of Murray’s favourite cities, looks as though it may become the place where he wins that long sought-after Grand Slam.