News from 36 week 2012 : 3 September to 9 September

NEW YORK —

For Andy Murray, and for Britain, this was all rather fitting.

Forced into a fifth set, despite winning the first two, against defending champion Novak Djokovic in the U.S. Open final.

A record-tying 4 hours, 54 minutes of leg-burning, stomach-roiling, tales-in-themselves points lasting 10, 20, 30, even 55 — yes, 55! — strokes.

And hanging over it all, the knowledge that Murray came up short in four previous Grand Slam title matches, adding to the 76-year, 286-tournament drought since the last major trophy for a British man.

All in all, well worth the wait.

His considerable lead, and chance at history, slipping away, Murray dug deep for stamina and mental strength, shrugging off a comeback bid and outlasting Djokovic 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 on Monday to win the championship at Flushing Meadows.

“Relief is probably the best word I would use to describe how I’m feeling just now,” Murray said. “You’re in a little bit of disbelief, because when I have been in that position many times before and not won, you do think: Is it ever going to happen?”

Yes, it did. Murray already had proved he could come up big, winning the gold medal in front of a home crowd at the London Olympics last month. That was part of what’s become a special summer for him, including an appearance — although, alas, a defeat, of course — in the Wimbledon final. But this was different from the Olympics. This was a victory at a Grand Slam tournament, the standard universally used to measure tennis greatness.

“Even after I won the Olympics,” Murray recalled Monday, “I still got asked, ‘When are you going to win a Grand Slam?”‘

Djokovic, who had won four of the previous seven, said: “He deserved to win this Grand Slam more than anybody, I’m sure, because over the years, he’s been a top player. He’s been so close.”

Ah, yes, so close. Words used often when discussing Murray. Even by him.

 

NEW YORK —

Finally tested, even trailing, at the U.S. Open, Serena Williams turned things around just in time.

Two points from defeat, Williams suddenly regained her composure and her strokes, coming back to win the last four games and beat Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 on Sunday night for her fourth championship at Flushing Meadows and 15th Grand Slam title overall.

“I honestly can’t believe I won. I really was preparing my runner-up speech, because I thought, ‘Man, she’s playing so great,”‘ Williams said during the trophy presentation after the 2-hour, 18-minute match, adding: “I’m really shocked.”

Might be the only one.

After all, what really was stunning was that the top-ranked Azarenka made things as interesting as they were, given that she came into the day 1-9 against Williams.

Add in that Williams hadn’t dropped a set in the tournament, losing only 19 games through six matches before Sunday. All part of a tremendous run she is putting together in reaction to her loss at the French Open in late May, the American’s only first-round exit in 49 career major tournaments. Since then, she is 26-1, winning Wimbledon and the London Olympics.

There hadn’t been a three-set women’s final in New York since 1995, and Williams came through with a late charge to become the first woman to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the same season since a decade ago, when — yes, that’s right — she did it.

“She never gives up,” said Azarenka, who managed only 13 winners, 31 fewer than Williams. “She’s definitely the toughest player, mentally, there is and she’s got the power.”

While Azarenka, a 23-year-old from Belarus, doesn’t have the name recognition or bona fides of Williams, she did win the Australian Open in January, and was 32-2 (a .941 winning percentage) on hard courts in 2012. She also hadn’t dropped a three-setter all season until Sunday, going 12-0 in matches that went the distance, including victories over defending U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur in the quarterfinals and 2006 champion Maria Sharapova in the semifinals.

 

TORONTO —

Canada’s Milos Raonic will make a rare appearance at home this fall.

The 21-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., will battle recently-retired American star Andy Roddick in “The Face-Off,” an exhibition event Nov. 16 at the Air Canada Centre.

“Other than at Rogers Cup once a year and the occasional Davis Cup tie in Canada, I don’t get to play in front of the home crowd very often,” Raonic said in a release. “This event gives me the chance to play in front of my Toronto fans, friends and family while showcasing some of the all-time great players like Pete Sampras last year and now Andy and Serena.

“It’s going to be great to give Toronto fans another chance to see world-class tennis again this year.”

American Serena Williams, the Olympic gold medallist who won the U.S. Open women’s crown Sunday, will play Agnieszka Radwanska in a rematch of this year’s Wimbledon final.

The 30-year-old Roddick is a former world No. 1 who retired from tournament play last week at the U.S. Open. Raonic will get another shot at the American who ousted him in the Memphis final in February of 2011.

“Milos, in a very short period of time, is already one of the big names in tennis,” Roddick said. “This event is a great showcase for him and for tennis and I’m really looking forward to being part of it.”

Raonic defeated Sampras 7-1, 6-1 in an exhibition match last year at the ACC.

“Milos reminds me so much of Andy and what he did for American tennis when he burst onto the tennis scene with such a huge serve and powerful game,” Williams said.

Raonic, Roddick, Williams and Radwanska will also pair up in a mixed doubles match.

 

News from 36 week 2012 : 3 September to 9 September

Monday, September 10, 2012

Murray beats Djokovic for US Open title, ends Slam drought

Canada’s Raonic to battle Roddick in Toronto exhibition

Radwanska, Cornet among first-round winners in Tashkent

Murray looks for first slam against Djokovic on TSN2, TSN.ca