September 1, 2020
Andy Murray certainly did it the hard way. And his first-round thriller made for some epic entertainment.
We were well into the fifth hour before he finally prevailed. It just made this stunning victory even sweeter.
Murray was two sets down to Yoshihito Nishioka. He had to save a match point too.
Then, to use his own expression, he put on the after-burners.
And in the absence of a crowd, he began to cheer his own brilliant comeback.
As Murray started to smell blood, a perfect backhand lob left his Japanese rival stranded.
Andy raised his fist to acknowledge one of the great trademark shots in world tennis.
And millions roared back home and all over the world as they watched this extraordinary superstar work yet another miracle.
Nobody lobs better than Andy Murray. It has been said he could lob a giraffe.
But not much else had been going right against the younger man. The basic components of the veteran Brit’s game were missing for so long.
The forehand was misfiring. The first serve wasn’t even clearing the net.
Andy dug deep. He found a way. Slowly but surely he turned the tide. The forehand began to fizz. The serve sizzled a little.
Victory came hard. In the end, it was Braveheart Murray’s stubborn streak that triumphed 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-4), 6-4.
It was a nerve-shredding experience. Dramatic in the extreme.
Isn’t that why we love Murray so much? Isn’t that why we can’t wait to cheer him at Wimbledon 2021?
The man’s fighting spirit had always been legendary. But we could never have imagined we would see him win another battle like this.
Not since he beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on his way to winning Wimbledon 2016 had Murray come back to triumph in five.
He has done it ten times in his long and illustrious career.
But few of us thought he would do it again at a Grand Slam. Not after all his hip trouble.
Whatever happens in New York now, Murray’s 2020 comeback is in a sense complete.
Imagine what he will be able to do at Wimbledon 2021 when he is even fitter?
As it is, Andy will inevitably feel the after-effects of this magical marathon.
He admitted: ‘I’m tired. My toes are the worst part. My big toes on both sides are pretty beat up. But I did alright.
‘I was apprehensive about playing a long match and paced myself.
‘But once I was two sets down I had to start putting the after-burners on! I was hitting my forehand better as the match went on.
‘He is a very, very good player. But I’d seen in some of his matches he’d been ahead and guys had got back at him.’
Having almost made us cry, it was inevitable that Murray made us laugh before he left the stage.
Andy explained: ‘There is an ice-bath here but they say it is only for emergencies.
‘For me this is an emergency right now! My body hurts and I need to recover as quickly as possible.
‘That’s by far the most tennis I’ve played since Australia in 2019 against Roberto Bautista Agut.’
We thought it was all over after that one. It isn’t now.
Murray may struggle to recover and go deep at Flushing Meadows. Maybe the new body isn’t quite ready to take another Grand Slam title just yet.
But when it comes to Wimbledon 2021, who knows?
Let’s just marvel at Britain’s favourite sportsman and what he puts us through.
Murray had us tearing our hair out in frustration. Then he had us cheering in disbelief.
If he didn’t already have one, the man would deserve a knighthood for sheer guts.
On another court, Jo Konta saw off Heather Watson 7-6 (9-7), 6-1.
Watson was a point from taking the first set. But then her resistance crumbled somewhat.
Murray makes comebacks looks easy. In reality they aren’t.
And that’s what makes Sir Andy so special.