October 19, 2014
In an extraordinary war of attrition, full of searing aggression and dramatic vulnerability, Andy Murray claimed the Vienna Open by defeating David Ferrer 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 in an intriguing final of two hours and forty minutes.
The 250 world ranking points Murray won in Austria propelled him into the coveted top eight places for the World Tour end-of-year finals in London.
A delighted Murray said afterwards: ‘It always feels good to win a tournament, an extremely difficult match and the third set could have gone either way. Thanks to the crowd. The atmosphere on this court is fantastic. We played in Shanghai last week, David and I, and he won. Whoever qualifies for London will deserve it. Congratulations on his performance today and sorry because neither of us deserved to lose today. Will I celebrate? Maybe one glass of champagne tonight and then off to Valencia for the next tournament. Thanks you to my team. I know I’m not always easy to deal with but I appreciate it.’
Murray has to perform in the final two tournaments before London in order to stay ahead of his rivals, including the losing Vienna finalist, the tenacious Ferrer.
This achievement should not be underestimated and shows that, slowly but surely, Murray is rediscovering the mental strength that took him to such glorious heights in 2012 and 2013. He had dropped to number eleven in the world pecking order and was only second seed in Vienna.
Both players did enough to take control more than once during the final, only for the momentum to change hands once more in enthralling style.
Murray battled all the way back from 2-4 down in the first set and even had a break point to go 5-4 ahead. But instead of serving for the set, he ended up serving to stay in it, 5-6 behind. Ferrer showed typical determination as he raced to 0-40 in the big game. Murray saved the first two set points with brave backhands but failed with his third gamble and the Spaniard had taken a bruising, 63-minute first set 7-5.
The Scot found himself right in the middle of a fresh crisis when he faced break points to go 0-2 down in the second set. This time Murray showed the strength of character to hold his own and gained momentum by breaking Ferrer in the very next game. Back came his tenacious opponent once more with three break points, but Murray stepped up to the challenge and consolidated his second-set lead.
Ferrer’s pugnacious performance suddenly seemed to hit a brick wall when he served at 2-4. Murray relaxed to seize control and break Ferrer for a third time in the match. At last mind and body appeared to have found some true harmony. And when the talented Brit took the second set 6-2 in just 40 minutes, he looked clear favourite to take the title.
Murray maintained his charge to break in the very first game of the deciding set. As with several service games earlier in the match, he closed the next with an ace and sorely tested his adversary’s renowned resolve.
Back came the gutsy Ferrer once more and levelled at 2-2 with a clever drop-shot. Murray kicked his racquet in frustration, knowing he had lost focus just when he should have been taking the match out of sight.
The setback was enough to sharpen his senses for a while, but soon Murray was throwing his racquet angrily as the relentless Ferrer savoured the heat of battle and edged ahead. The Spaniard showed superior aggression to break Murray once more and claim his fourth consecutive game. Now Ferrer was just two games away from claiming the title, thanks to his well-deserved 4-2 lead.
A clear view of the finishing tape can always be dangerous, however. Murray mounted a desperate comeback of his own to earn three break points. He took his third chance and suddenly we were back on serve. Not for long. We should have known there would be another surprise in this gloriously unpredictable match. Once again Ferrer demonstrated a surge of extreme mental strength, while Murray temporarily crumbled to surrender his serve yet again.
Now Ferrer really was serving for the match, and we knew it would take a fifth consecutive break of serve for the Scot to stay in the contest. He had two break points for 4-5 and incredibly it was Ferrer who fell apart this time, giving the game away with a double fault. It was almost as if Andy was giving David a taste of his own medicine at last, retrieving his warrior spirit that had deserted him for long periods over the last year.
Murray was still serving to stay in the final, and finally her held to level at 5-5. With perfect timing, the 2013 Wimbledon champion came out with his cleanest hitting yet to break Ferrer yet again, crushing forehand and backhand winners sending his opponent sprawling in desperation.
Finally it was Murray serving for the match, 6-5 ahead, but there had already been so many twists and turns that you simply couldn’t safely assume anything.
A heartbroken Ferrer said: ‘I am sad but congratulations Andy. I hope to be in London anyway and I hope to be here in Vienna again.’
The courageous Spaniard had reason to be proud. He had more than played his part in another tennis epic. How lucky we tennis fans are that this golden age of ours keeps on giving.