September 8, 2016
It isn’t all over until they bang the gong – and even then it shouldn’t be. But that’s pretty much how events unfolded at Flushing Meadows. Andy Murray began to unravel – and that was that.
In the end, Kei Nishikori was superb. The Japanese hero hit big shots without inhibition, went for his winners and found his reward.
His five-set victory, 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 took three hours and 57 minutes – and it was thoroughly deserved.
Murray allowed himself to be distracted. Not so much by the strange gong sound on the stadium system, the one that caused so much chaos.
More by the fact that play was halted for that sound, while he was in control of a key rally, a break point up and two sets to one ahead.
He argued with the umpire and referee that this was the fourth time the sound had been heard during the match. So why interrupt the action this time?
Perhaps he had a point. But still…there comes a time when you have to get over a setback.
The sideshow may have cost him an opportunity. But it shouldn’t have cost him the match.
Where was the mental strength that won him Wimbledon and the Olympics? Why did Murray resort to the histrionics of old from that point on?
Ivan Lendl, his coach, couldn’t have been too impressed.
Lack of inner calm cost Murray his earliest exit for his last seven majors. Not that he was complaining about the summer as a whole.
‘If I’d been offered all this before Wimbledon, I’d have taken it,’ he said. But then there was the question about that distraction.
‘They stopped the point and I was just curious why that was and that was it,’ Andy explained. But that wasn’t it. He admitted as much. ‘Did it affect me? Definitely.’
Players are only human, but they are supposed to work with sports psychologists and coaches to minimise the impact of this kind of relatively trivial thing.
As untimely as the intervention was, it shouldn’t have been so decisive.
You couldn’t blame Nishikori for taking his chance to the full – and he reckoned he benefited from a rain break too.
‘The rain delay helped me to change tactics. I tried to hit a few more drop shots than usual today and it helped me.’
Nishikori made it all the way to the US Open final a couple of years ago. This year Stan Wawrinka will be standing in his way after the Swiss defeated Juan Martin Del Potro 7-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
There was a marvellous moment just before the end, when the American crowd saluted the hugely popular Del Potro for his long climb back towards the top of tennis from near oblivion.
Wawrinka has won the Australian and French Opens in the past. Could he add the US Open to his collection?
Meanwhile Serena Williams marched on in dramatic style after a three-set thriller against Simona Halep. That inner determination and incredible will to win served Williams well as she emerged the winner, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.
Serena, who plays Czech 10th seed Karolina Pliskova in the semi-final, said of the Halep match: ‘I lost my rhythm a little in the second set and Simona kept playing really well, going for her shots.
‘But I knew if I wanted to win this I had to step it up in the third set.’
Williams found an extra gear and now stands just two steps from historic glory.