2012 US Open: Andy Murray’s road to the final
The two main stadiums here are called Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong. One I love, the other I have never felt comfortable on. I just don’t like Armstrong and never have. Each time I’ve played on it I’ve struggled, and the 2012 championship was a case in point. I started strongly enough, beating Alex Bogomolov and Ivan Dodig in the first two rounds on Ashe and then had to play Feliciano Lopez of Spain over on Armstrong. And the jinx almost held because I couldn’t really settle properly. It can get breezy on the big courts; on Ashe it generally blows from the President’s Box end and you get used to that, but on Armstrong, where there’s no sense of being enclosed, the wind swirls and moves in different directions. You are most exposed to the sun playing day matches on Armstrong, too, and it can be so bright that tracking the ball gets really hard.
The grandstand in the Arthur Ashe Stadium gives more shelter from the wind and it’s built so that the sun moves across early in the day, providing plenty of shadow and shade. On Armstrong the sun is on the players for the whole day and it’s really intense. That made it difficult for me to settle, but the fact is that Lopez is not much fun to play. He had Alex Corretja, a former coach of mine, in his box.
As a result, I struggled physically, but somehow it was one of those matches that I found a way to win. I didn’t feel right at all, but somehow I got through. I used to be able to do that a lot of times in all the regular tournaments I played on tour and managed to get a really high degree of consistency throughout the year. However in the Slams that wasn’t necessarily the case. Now I’ve learned how to cope in situations when the pressure is on. I think about how my opponent might be feeling. I understand it all much better than I did before.
In the fourth round, I played well against a new big gun on the tour, Milos Raonic of Canada. We were playing on Ashe at night, which I really like. The conditions seem kinder in the evening and that was one of those really good nights. I read his serve well from early on and seemed to be able to anticipate everything he was going to do. That night I was quick and in command.
For the quarter-final against Marin Cilic of Croatia, the game was back on Armstrong and the pressure was really on. Cilic made sure that I felt it from the start, taking the first set and going on to take a 5-1 lead on the second.
When I got the first break back in that second set, we both sensed how important the next couple of games would be. And I started to feel that he was getting nervous. After that, I played on pure instinct. I got to balls I hadn’t been reaching before, chased everything down and got back into the match the hard way.
Perhaps if he hadn’t got nervous I wouldn’t have won, but there were nerves for me too. If you sense the opponent is tightening up and think, ‘I can get back in here, this is my chance’, the pressure increases on you. The guys who are behind aren’t the ones who tend to rush. They have all the time in the world, which is why it was surprising to see him hurry and make mistakes. It wasn’t as if I was blasting winners all over the court, so much as making as many balls as I could. Little by little, I started to reclaim the middle of the court, and he started to miss. That was it.
The semi-final against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic on Ashe was a freak show. There were high winds, which it’s all about who hits the ball best that day. It was about who could manoeuvre the ball around and come up with the right shots and the smartest shots. I feel like I have a bit more variety in my game than Tomas, so the conditions helped me and hindered him more than me. It was almost comical because of the wind conditions and I was laughing a little inside at how ridiculous the points were. All the same, it was semi-final of the US Open, and it was a great opportunity.
I aced Berdych when the ball bounced twice before it reached him. That has never happened the whole time I’ve been on the tour, but there was stuff taking place put there that had never happened in my entire life. If you had wanted to, you could easily have spun the ball from your opponent’s court back onto your own side because the breeze was so strong.
Playing a proper point became impossible and, in all the chaos, I managed to lose the first set. After that, I felt like I was cruising. I took the second and third sets easily and I had two break points in the fourth. Then Berdych started to serve and volley with much greater consistency, coming into the net more. After that, things changed quickly. I was 5-7 6-2 6-1 up and he had enough break points to put me 5-1 down in the fourth. That was the point when I started the fight back and ended up taking it to a tie-break.
I went 5-2 down in that and realized that I’d gone from a commanding position to win the match to one where it looked likely to go into a fifth. I’d had the momentum with me, and then I was on the verge of blowing it through my bad play and his consistency. The conditions were ridiculous, but that’s no excuse because it was the same for both of us. It was so, so difficult, but I was fought back and won, I was just pleased to get it over and done with.
My post-match conference took a surreal turn. I knew that both Sir Sean Connery and Sir Alex Ferguson had been at the match, but I wasn’t expecting to suddenly be confronted by both of them. I had spoken to Sean Connery on the phone before the game, but I’d never even met Alex Ferguson. That made it a weird situation and, to be honest, I didn’t know what to say to either of them. Both are quite intimidating presences in their own way. I’ve seen Sir Alex on TV so many times and it seems like he’s really intense. You get the feeling that if you say the wrong thing when he’s doing his job, he’s going to bite your head off.
But he came to the press conference with a massive smile on his face. He was really relaxed – I think he might have had a couple of drinks – so it was cool.