Andy Murray wins the U.S. Open - and the crowd - while Novak Djokovic is booed mercilessly for his noble effort
Ashe Stadium jeers the Serbian great who needs medical timeout down 2-5 in fifth set. If you are looking for the answer to the question why, it seems only to be because he is not Murray or Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer.
The waiting ends for Britain, a nation that suffered for generations, for 76 years and through 287 majors.
Monkeys descended from backs. Elephants left the room, and then the National Tennis Center. An entire, self-flagellating sports nation wakes up Tuesday morning knowing how Ranger fans felt in 1994 and how Red Sox diehards greeted the dawn in 2004.
One of their men, a Scot, captured a major championship for the first time since 1936. The name Fred Perry can be retired from the daily, summer vocabulary of the London sports sections. That headline in the Daily Mail from years ago, “We’re Rubbish,” no longer applies to the sport of kings.
Andy Murray beat Novak Djokovic, 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2, on Monday to win the U.S. Open, and now the whining stops across the Atlantic.
Murray, a fine player born at the wrong time, at long last climbs through his window of opportunity. Both players retrieved and returned shots for what seemed like forever, for nearly five hours, once for 50 strokes during a single point. Djokovic eventually grew too tired and sore, cramping from two difficult matches over a 34-hour span.
“Relief is probably the best word I’d used to describe how I feel right now,” Murray said. “If I’d lost this one from two sets up, that would have been a tough one. You have a sense how big it was in British tennis history. I know more about it than most.”
It was a joyous occasion for Murray, his long-delayed breakthrough, and yet there was an awful moment in the fifth set that very nearly ruined everything.
Incredibly, when Djokovic required a medical timeout for a massage, down 2-5 in the fifth set, the crowd booed him. They jeered the man who would play 315 points, who had come back from two sets down and a 22-point tiebreaker loss, who had fought through the gusts of wind, who had limped after balls to keep rallies alive.
Ashe Stadium can be a classless joint. Djokovic gave it right back to the hecklers. While his thighs were being massaged by a trainer, he clapped his hands and put thumbs up, sarcastically responding to the detractors.
It’s a terrible shame that American fans at the U.S. Open never seem able to embrace Djokovic as a personable champion. He smiles, he sings, he impersonates other athletes. He plays remarkable tennis and there is no quit in him anywhere. He applauds his opponent’s best shots. He says the right things on court after matches.
“I really tried my best,” Djokovic told the crowd on Monday, after he lost. “Thank you all for staying so late.”
Here’s a theory: Djokovic is a Serb, and Eastern Europeans have long faced a cultural bias at the Open dating back to Martina Navratilova and Ivan Lendl, maybe even to Ilie Nastase.
Lendl, now Murray’s coach, was Czech. A Czech invented the word “robot,” and that’s exactly how Lendl was viewed during his many successes in New York.
“It really depends if you’re talking the Cold War era or the post-Cold War era, there’s a clear divide,” Lendl said.
But the pattern persists, even without a Berlin Wall. Only the beautiful Russian women from Florida are crowd favorites. Jana Novotna, Hana Mandlikova and Svetlana Kuznetsova were all Grand Slam champs treated here with indifference.
Now Djokovic gets the cold shoulder, while Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have the audience in their pockets.
“I think Novak made a few boo-boos, didn’t he?” Lendl said, smiling.
Too many fist pumps and chest pounds, maybe. Too much success against Federer and Nadal. His player’s box, also, is filled with sometimes dour relatives and coaches all wearing the same endorsed clothing, a big image problem. Nobody wants to see family and friends dressed in uniforms.
It’s so... Eastern European.
So the view endures. Djokovic can laugh and run his tail off and the fans are still going to root for Murray in New York. They still boo Djokovic when he cramps in the fifth set, nearly wrecking Murray’s moment.
“He deserved to win this Grand Slam more than anybody,” Djokovic said. “Us four (along with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer), we’re taking this game to another level. It’s a privilege to be part of this era. Andy winning tonight makes it even more interesting.
“We were both hungry for it,” Djokovic said.
Murray finally dines on a trophy. Good for him, shame on New York tennis fans.
Lendl is just hilarious! I think my favorite part of the match was Lendl in Andy's box during the awards ceremony. I'll take an Andy Murray win as long as he keeps Lendl as his coach.
Seriously though, congrats to Andy. I thought I'd be more upset about him winning, beating Nole no less. But I agree Nole's family is a bit much, and on a personal level, I just think Nole tries too hard to get people to like him. So what if the USO fans prefered Andy. Andy was the underdog, so that should have been expected. Plus Andy is..British by default, and Sean Connery visits him at pressers as well as sits in his box.
So... anyway... I think Nole was great in defeat... maybe a little too nice, actually.
I think Nole needs to take a page from Roger's book: As a disclaimer I mean this with the utmost respect and admiration: one of the things Roger seems to really enjoy albeit a guilty pleasure is the role of a dream crusher! Roger just has this take no prisoners attitude. Sometimes I think Nole gets a little "resigned," and bummed when the crowd isn't supporting him. Like with that medical timeout... it's in the rules, so...why not? And maybe he was cramping or his legs were tired? The point is... I think Nole wasted some energy even responding to the crowds boos. I think he should have anticipated they weren't gonna be do happy about it, so....
The match was OK as far as the tennis goes. On a competitive level, it was pretty entertaining.
Congrats to both players.