Andy Murray ends Britain's wait for grand slam, wins US Open
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Andy Murray ends Britain's wait for grand slam, wins US Open

Unfairly branded a 'choker' after losing his first four grand slam final appearances, Andy Murray silenced his critics and exorcised his own doubts forever when he beat the defending champion Novak Djokovic in a five-set thriller.

sports Updated: Sep 11, 2012 17:21 IST
Andy Murray,US Open,grand slam

Britain's long wait is over. The nation that invented modern tennis finally has a champion for the new age after Andy Murray won the US Open on Monday.

The jokes about wooden rackets and men playing tennis in long, white trousers have lost their punchline and Fred Perry, the last British man to win a grand slam single title way back in 1936, can rest in peace.

It has been a long and agonising wait for Murray too. The 25-year-old Scot, a naturally shy, introverted man, has carried the weight of expectation since the moment he emerged as the potential drought-breaker.

Unfairly branded a 'choker' after losing his first four grand slam final appearances, Murray silenced his critics and exorcised his own doubts forever when he beat the defending champion Novak Djokovic in a five-set thriller.

"I have been asked about it many times when I got close to winning grand slams before," he said.

"I hope now it inspires some kids to play tennis and also takes away the notion that British tennis players choke or don't win, or it's not a good sport."

A Britain's Andy Murray receives the trophy after defeating Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the men's singles final match at the US Open tennis tournament in New York. (Reuters)

In 2010, Murray cried when he lost the Australian Open final to Roger Federer and he sobbed again when he lost to the Swiss master at Wimbledon in July.

But on Monday, under the bright lights of New York City's national tennis centre, he shed tears of a joy as the heavy burden was lifted from his shoulders with a rousing 7-6 7-5 2-6 3-6 6-2 victory.

"I was obviously very emotional. I cried a little bit on the court," he said. "You're not sad, you're incredibly happy.

"You're in a little bit of disbelief because when I have been in that position many times before and not won... Is it ever going to happen? Then when it finally does, you're obviously very, very excited.

"I was mainly relieved to have got over that last hurdle."

It has been a long and hard road to the top for Murray, who was born in Glasgow and raised in Dunblane.

Andy Murray of Great Britain kisses the US Open championship trophy after defeating Novak Djokovic in the men's singles final match at the US Open in New York. (Getty Images)

He was a pupil at Dunblane Primary School and present on the day in 1996 when a gunman shot dead 16 students and a teacher before turning the gun on himself. Murray, eight years old at the time, hid under a desk.

When he was 15, he moved to Barcelona to further his tennis career and in 2008, he made his first grand slam final, at the U.S. Open, losing in straight sets.

He made the Australian Open final in 2010 and again a year later, but the results were the same, triggering doubts in his own mind even though he was an established top player and regular winner of Masters events.

Lendl factor
Earlier this year, he hired former world number one Ivan Lendl as his coach and things started to change.

He became the first British man to reach the final at Wimbledon since Bunny Austin in 1938 and although he lost, he at least managed to win a set.

Then a few weeks later, he avenged his loss to Federer when he won the gold medal on the same Wimbledon Centre Court at the London Olympics and arrived at Flushing Meadows with renewed confidence.

"The Olympics was obviously huge for me. It was the biggest week of my life," Murray said. "But still today, before the match when I was sitting in the locker room beforehand, there are still doubts.

"You're still thinking, 'If I lose this one, you know, no one's ever lost their first five finals.' I just didn't really want to be that person."

Suddenly, the future looks brighter than ever for the Briton.

As Federer's relentless pursuit of grand slams slows with age and Rafa Nadal's creaking knees continue to trouble him, Murray and Djokovic are rapidly emerging as the sport's next great rivals.

Perry, who died in 1995 aged 85, won eight grand titles and Murray said he was sure the late Englishman would have been thrilled to see him win.

"I never got the chance to meet him but it would have been nice to have spoken to someone from Britain that had won major tournaments before," Murray said.

A Britain's Andy Murray reacts after defeating Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the men's singles final match at the US Open tennis tournament in New York.(Getty Images)

"That definitely would have helped me if I would have got the chance but I used to wear his clothing line when I was growing up.

"I'm sure he's smiling from up there that someone has finally managed to do it from Britain and I just hope I can see another British player in my lifetime win a grand slam."

Andy Murray, from tragedy to Grand Slam sensation
A scrawny, pasty-faced Andy Murray first made a Grand Slam impact when he was just 18 and making his Wimbledon debut in 2005.

He reached the third round where he gave Argentina's David Nalbandian, the 2002 runner-up, a huge scare by taking a two-sets-to-love lead before running out of steam to lose in five.

But amongst the first questions posed at a packed news conference was an enquiry far removed from the gentile confines of the All England Club in leafy, southwest London where million-pound homes abound.

The questioner wanted to know about Murray's recollection of his schooldays in the Scottish town of Dunblane, where he had been a pupil when deranged gunman Thomas Hamilton burst in and murdered 16 children and one teacher in 1996.

Murray was eight at the time and his elder brother, Jamie, also a professional player, 10.

He recalls surviving by hiding under a desk in the headmaster's office.

"Some of my friends' brothers and sisters were killed. I have only retained patchy impressions of that day, such as being in a classroom singing songs," Murray wrote in his autobiography, Hitting Back.

"The weirdest thing was that we knew Hamilton. He had been in my mum's car. It's obviously weird to think you had a murderer in your car, sitting next to your mum.

"That is probably another reason why I don't want to look back at it. It is just so uncomfortable to think that it was someone we knew from the Boys Club.

"We used to go to the club and have fun. Then to find out he's a murderer was something my brain couldn't cope with."

With such a childhood trauma, it is hardly surprising that 25-year-old Murray, who on Monday became Britain's first men's Grand Slam champion since Fred Perry in 1936, comes across as a hard man to read.

Andy Murray with his girlfriend Kim Sears and the trophy during 2012 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Getty Images)

Murray, with over £20 million banked from his career, does not suffer fools gladly and talks straight, his often unsmiling demeanour presented to the media at odds with a man known as a joker amongst his close friends.

That granite exterior was softened -- probably forever -- when he broke down in tears after his loss in July's Wimbledon final to Roger Federer, his fourth successive flop in a Grand Slam final.

He then became a national hero last month when he captured an Olympic Games gold medal, gaining revenge on Federer.

It was not always that way.

Sometimes his public utterances used to backfire, which only served to increase people's suspicions before his golden summer of 2012 went into overdrive.

On the eve of the 2006 football World Cup, he was asked who he would support and he replied: "Anyone but England".

It led to Scot being condemned as unpatriotic and unsporting.

Britain is just not used to having a decent tennis player and the bemusement was illustrated after he had defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Wimbledon semi-final this year to become the country's first men's finalist since Bunny Austin in 1938.

Fans of tennis player Andy Murray react as he wins his US Open men's singles final match, at the bar of The Dunblane Hotel in his hometown in Dunblane, Scotland. (Reuters)

But Murray melted hearts when he sobbed after his loss to Federer. His mother Judy and girlfriend, Kim Sears, were also in tears as grim-faced Andy left Centre Court having warmed the hearts of a nation.

With an historic US Open title under his belt, Murray may be surprised to know that he is now Britain's Mr. Nice Guy, not Mr. Grumpy.

How Andy Murray's historic US Open triumph on Monday played out on Twitter

(With inputs from Reuters and AFP)

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Factfile of US Open champion Andy Murray

First Published: Sep 11, 2012 07:25 IST