August 24, 2020
Andy Murray is back in the big time. He looks capable of anything.
Some of his movement at Flushing Meadows beggared belief in his biggest match for years.
Chasing down the impossible, producing winners of deft and devastating accuracy under immense pressure.
If Wimbledon 2021 came tomorrow, Murray would be ready.
As it is, he has almost a year to sharpen his act further still. But his astonishing progress, after years of injury problems, is beyond exciting.
Andy just took down the world number 7 in an absolute thriller. Alexander Zverev is one of the most exciting players of modern times.
Yet Murray prevailed 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. The denouement swung from the sublime to the ridiculous.
But then we had watched open-mouthed almost from the start.
There were shots of stunning quality and errors of inexplicable magnitude.
Andy admitted: ‘I don’t think either of us played particularly well when we were so close to the finishing line. But I was glad to get through it.’
In the end Murray did it in style, though. And he could smile at the lack of audible reaction to his genius.
‘I hit a running passing shot winner from way off the court and I got silence,’ he said, seeing the humour of the situation.
Don’t worry, Murray. The crowds will flock back to Wimbledon 2021.
And if you can conjure key winners like this, they will hear the cheers in central London.
Two incredible shots sealed it for Murray against Zverev.
That delicate forehand pass on the run defied time and medical history.
A punchy backhand delivered the final killer blow.
What marvellous psychological drama we witnessed. Both men tightened as they reached for the tape.
At 4-1 up in the final set, Murray was on the verge of something extraordinary.
The fire and focus in Andy’s eyes told us how much he wanted this victory. Perhaps he wanted it too much.
His first victory over a top eight player since the ATP finals in 2016. A terrific scalp.
Andy was loving every moment. In the absence of a supporting crowd, he cheered his own best work until the job was almost done.
Zverev, it has to be said, hadn’t helped his own cause. His work had often looked surprisingly loose. His volley was suspect.
But suddenly the younger man relaxed and turned on the power for a while. Murray struggled even more on serve.
Despite one superhuman return of a Zverev smash, the scores were back level before we knew it.
Then it was Murray’s turn to miss a simple volley. Worse followed when he pulled an easy forehand wide.
We gasped as he pushed another forehand the wrong side of the line and sent a third too low.
Such elementary errors were down to tension and fatigue. They seemed to have cost him. Zverev served for the match.
Then the German’s game fell apart. Pressure can do strange things.
Murray seized on that chaos and came up with his magical best to claim a famous victory.
Now he will play Milos Raonic, who beat Britain’s Dan Evans 6-3, 7-5 with a superb serving display.
Andy observed: ‘He has a huge serve and he is playing really well. He gets the best out of his game and that’s all you can ask for.’
If that sounded like a backhanded compliment, Murray meant no disrespect.
But he has beaten Raonic in their last nine matches and can boast eleven out of fifteen victories in their clashes over the years.
Can Andy beat the powerful Raonic once more? It seems that anything is possible right now.
Meanwhile Jo Konta was also jubilant after she defeated Kirsten Flipkens 6-2, 6-0 in only 63 minutes.
‘I was pleased with the solutions I found,’ said Konta after her first important victory in months. Not that Flipkens had really posed her many problems.
Indeed Konta looked exactly the player who had thrilled us with her charges towards the final stages of Wimbledon in recent years.
Could she excite us once more at Wimbledon 2021? No reason why she shouldn’t have British fans cheering again at the home of tennis.
For now it is Murray’s ability to roll back the years that leaves us most awe-struck.
He set up the key break point in the first with a sumptuous forehand pass and looked by far the more comfortable player.
Andy only made four unforced errors all set.
The way he chased down a Zverev drop-shot to go 5-2 was nothing short astonishing.
The tall German did threaten to raise his game towards the end of the set and might have broken back.
The Scot seemed to be having trouble with something as basic as his first-serve ball toss.
It simply wasn’t going high enough and he needs to put that right before facing Raonic.
But cool Murray still held his nerve to take the opener in just over three-quarters-of-an-hour.
Zverev’s mental strength has often been questioned and we waited to see whether he would struggle to stay in the match after going a set down.
But he saved two break points in the opening game of the second set to show he was still up for a fight.
Andy was lacking some of his first-set fizz though, particularly on his backhand.
Unfortunately for the Brit, he also handed Zverev a break point with a double fault and then couldn’t clear the net with a tricky low volley.
Zverev closed out the set to level the match. And when Andy’s serve fell apart somewhat in the first game of the decider, he was living on the edge.
But then his competitve spirit kicked in again with breathtaking results.
Meanwhile Serena Williams also showed typical battling qualities to beat Arantxa Rus 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 7-6 (7-0) in two hours and fifty minutes.
The Spaniard served for the match and came within two points of glory.
But Serena summoned all she had left. She totally crushed her younger opponent in the concluding breaker.