By Randy Walker
It was destiny.
The stars were aligned Monday for Andy Murray as he broke a 76-year drought of British men’s singles champion at Grand Slam events, winning the 2012 US Open men’s singles title with a topsy-turvy five-set victory over defending champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia.
Murray’s 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 win Sunday night marked the first time a British man had won a major singles title since Fred Perry won the last of his eight major titles at the 1936 U.S. Championships.
By some sort of ironic dose of destiny, Murray’s win Monday came 79 years to the day that Perry had also won his first major singles title at the U.S. Championships in 1933, beating Australian Jack Crawford also in five sets. Like Murray this year, Perry was also seeded No. 3 in winning his maiden major at the U.S. Championships. Murray and Perry, ironically, also have birthdays three days apart – Perry on May 18 (in 1909) and Murray on May 15 (in 1987).
Murray’s break-through victory also came in his fifth appearance in the major singles final – the same number major tournament finals that Murray’s coach Ivan Lendl needed before he finally broke through to win his first major title at age 24, one year younger than Murray is now. Lendl lost the 1981 French final, the 1982 and 1983 US Open finals and the 1983 Australian Open final before breaking through and winning the 1984 French Open, rallying from a two-sets-to-love deficit to beat John McEnroe. Murray previously lost the 2008 US Open final to Roger Federer, the 2010 and 2011 Australian Open finals to Djokovic and the Wimbledon final to Federer earlier this summer, famously crying in his post-match interview with Sue Barker of the BBC. However, since the crushing Wimbledon final loss, Murray rebounded in glorious fashion, winning the gold medal at the Olympic Games, a victory that helped alleviate the angst of not winning on the grandest stages of the sport.
The Murray-Djokovic final also was played in four hours, 54 minutes –exactly tying the longest US Open singles final in history, set by Lendl and Mats Wilander in 1988, Wilander winning over five sets.
As documented in my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY (available here: http://www.amazon.com/This-Tennis-History-Day—Day/dp/0942257421/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1347333821&sr=8-1&keywords=On+this+day+in+tennis+history), it was on September 10, 1933 that Perry ended Crawford’s bid for the first Grand Slam of tennis and wins his first major singles title with a 6-3, 11-13, 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 victory over the Australian in the final of the U.S. Championships. Crawford actually played at Forest Hills against his will as the Lawn Tennis Association of Australia forced him to compete – based on a $1,500 “appearance fee” the association received from the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association to guarantee Crawford’s participation. Crawford preferred to return home to Australia after five months on the road where he won 13 straight tournaments, but was in ill-health and suffered from insomnia, asthma and exhaustion. Crawford’s wins in Australia, France and Wimbledon had the tennis world buzzing at the prospects of an unprecedented sweep of all of majors, New York Times columnist John Kieran wrote: “If Crawford wins, it would be something like scoring a grand slam on the courts, doubled and vulnerable.” Crawford nearly pulled off the feat, leading Perry two-sets-to-one in the final, but following the intermission between the third and fourth sets, the Australian was only able to win one more game and Perry went on to the championship. Perry also went on to win the U.S. title two more times, Wimbledon three times and the French and Australian title one time each to become the first player in tennis history to win a “Career Grand Slam.”