Andy Murray Wins His First Grand Slam

In a five-set match Monday, Andy Murray fended off Novak Djokovic to win the U.S. Open, his first Grand Slam title.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Great Britain, today, is celebrating the end of a 76-year-old losing streak and the tennis player who broke it, by winning a Grand Slam trophy. Last night, Andy Murray of Scotland beat Serbian Novak Djokovic to do just that by winning the U.S. Open in New York. It took him nearly five hours, a marathon, but when it was over Murray had also broken his own losing streak; four Grand Slam final appearances, four losses.

Joining us to talk about the match is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Good morning.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi.

MONTAGNE: So, joy in Britain. I mean, obviously 76 years is a long time. But why the relief? Did they not think that Andy Murray could do it?

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDMAN: Well, there was that drought. Fred Perry, the last British man to win a Grand Slam, it was the 1936 U.S. Championship - what the U.S. Open used to be called. And that drought became a burden for those who got close. There was Tim Henman in the 1990s and early 2000s. And then as Murray got closer in the last few years, he seemed stalled at number four behind Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer.

But then, this great summer, loss in the finals of Wimbledon. Got redemption, beat Roger Federer for the Olympic title, then yesterday. And the post-match press conference with a big grin on his face, he said, I don't have to get asked that stupid question, any more, about 1936.

MONTAGNE: Of course, he did get asked that question.

(LAUGHTER)

MONTAGNE: But, in any event, it certainly wasn't an easy victory. Tell us about the match.

GOLDMAN: It was an amazing, amazing match played in swirling winds at Flushing Meadows in New York. The first set featured a 54-stroke rally Murray won in a tie-breaker. He won the second set. Then Djokovic rallied and won sets three and four. In the final set, looked like Djokovic had all the momentum, but it was Murray who came out with energy. He just seemed a lot looser and he went up to a three-O lead. And then Djokovic got closer, three-two.

But then Djokovic's body started to betray him a bit. His legs started cramping up. And then Murray finished out the last four games and he had it.

MONTAGNE: And after that win, Murray was asked about his coach, former champion, Ivan Lendl, who barely cracked a smile as he watched his pupil's triumphant moment. How much of Murray's success is really due to Lendl?

GOLDMAN: I think Lendl really helped Andy Murray take the final step. They joined forces in January. And Lendl worked with Murray on a few key things; being calm in pressure situations, pressing the attack with his ground strokes - especially his thunderous forehand; and cutting his practice hours to save his shoulder for serving. And we see the result in his constantly booming serve.

And they are also two peas in a pod when it comes to temperament. As you mentioned, Lindl not cracking a smile. In public, at least, he hides his emotions although his temper often boiled over during matches, much like Murray who also gets quite cranky during matches. They are also hoping for another shared trait. Like Murray, Lindl played in four Grand Slam finals before breaking through. Then he won a total of eight.

MONTAGNE: And care to speculate how successful Murray can be, now that he has first Grand Slam?

GOLDMAN: Well, I think this is a transitional moment for Murray. Once you have that first one, you don't have the burden and you're looser but also hungrier to repeat that wonderful feeling. And I think what this does, it changes the top group. Instead of the troika - with Djokovic, Nadal and Federer - it's now a quartet with Murray. And he and Djokovic are the same age, 25, and we could see their rivalry become the big one in men's tennis.

MONTAGNE: NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman, thanks very much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

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MONTAGNE: And this is MORNING EDITION form NPR News.

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