It took Andy Murray nearly five hours to squeeze Novak Djokovic.
Britain’s Andy Murray beat Serbia’s Novak Djokovic 7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 in the 2012 US Open final. Murray and Djokovic clinched the title in four hours and 54 minutes, a historic record, along with a battle between Sweden’s Mats Wilander and Czech Ivan Lendl in the deciding match of the 1988 US Open.
The Murray vs Djokovic final is among the top 5 longest matches in US Open history, but it falls short of the top. Only Stefan Edberg and Michael Chang in the semifinals in 1992 (5 hours 26 minutes), Carlos Alcaraz and Yannick Sinner in the 1/4 final this year (5 hours 15 minutes), Paolo Lorenzi and Gilles Simon in the second round in 2006 (4 hours 58 minutes), Albert Ramos-Vignolas and Denis Istomin in the first round in 2017 (4 hours 55 minutes) figured out longer.
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The 2012 US Open finals got off to a flying start. The audience was not bored right from the start. Tennis was fun, with plenty of swing in both directions. Djokovic served first and Murray took the game dry. Novak made four uncharacteristic errors.
Djokovic evened his serve immediately, not letting Andy enjoy his break. In the third game Novak was trailing 0-40 on his serve, but he dominated his serve and took the lead for the first time in the match. Both players made a huge number of silly mistakes. Novak dropped three games in a row and was trailing 2-4. In the seventh game Murray was close to another break, but Novak caught up with him at even. Next Andy gave up his serve again.
It came to a tie-break. Djokovic was leading 2-0, 5-3 and then served, but a series of unexplained breakdowns by the Serb led to Murray having five set-balls – making them all on the court and throwing them away on serve. Andy finally served well on the sixth set-ball and overpowered Novak. The tie-break ended with a score of 12-10 and was the longest in the history of US Open finals. Previous record-setting tie-breaks had been the 1976 final between Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg and 1987 final between Ivan Lundl and Mats Wilander, which ended with a score of 11 to 9.
In the second set, Djokovic burned hopelessly 0-4. At the cost of heroic efforts, he began to catch up with Murray and made the score 5:5. It seemed that the match was a turning point in favor of the Serb, but his opponent managed to pull himself together. Andy held his serve and then took another one, playing at the top of his game.
Murray made a strong bid for victory, but Djokovic was not going to give up. Every game of the third and fourth sets was nervous and often decided by more or less. The Serb left the British player out of the game in the vast majority of cases. 7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 3-6 – these were the numbers on the scoreboard at the beginning of the decisive fifth game.
The two players took four hours to play the first four sets. Djokovic often lost his balance on the court and fell. Novak even changed his shoes during the match, but it didn’t help. The Serb could hardly stand on his feet. Murray was also tired, although he looked fresher. Andy broke at the beginning of the fifth set and led 3-0. This time the British player didn’t give Djokovic a chance to make a comeback. Novak tried to clinch the match at 2-4, but couldn’t take the game. After that the Serb actually threw out the white flag. Andy served to win the match and became the winner of the 2012 US Open.
The Americans liked the result of their nearly five-hour encounter. The crowd in New York was more sympathetic to the Briton Murray than to the Serb Djokovic. The ratings didn’t let up, either. The men’s finals of the 2012 US Open brought in a record 16.2 million viewers in the United States since 2007, watching all or part of the match. That’s 4.4 million more than when Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal in 2011, and 10.3 million more than when Nadal beat Djokovic two years earlier. And this despite the fact that the final match was postponed from Sunday evening to Monday evening due to rain.
The final had enough statistical highlights, not counting the length of the match and the tiebreak.
Murray snapped Djokovic’s 27-match unbeaten streak at Grand Slam tournaments played on hard court. The Serb won the 2011 and 2012 Australian Opens and the 2011 US Open, and reached the finals of the 2012 US Open. Murray is the first player in the history of men’s tennis to win both the Olympic Games and the US Open in the same season.
He is the first British player to win a Grand Slam singles title since 1936 (when Fred Perry won). Murray, the 2004 US Open junior champion, became only the third player to repeat his success at an adult tournament. Before him it was done by Andy Roddick (junior title, 2000, adult, 2003) and Stefan Edberg (junior title, 1983, adult, 1991, 1992).
Getting a little ahead of himself, Djokovic has played three of the longest men’s finals in Grand Slam tournament history, winning two of them: Australian Open – 2012 with Nadal (5 hours and 53 minutes), Wimbledon 2019 with Roger Federer (4 hours and 57 minutes) plus a lost battle with Murray at US Open – 2012 (4 hours and 54 minutes).
Also in 2017, Murray stopped having success on the court. He missed a lot of time due to constant injuries and hip surgery. It got to the point where Andy had a three-year winless streak over top-10 tennis players. Murray returned to the top 50 before Wimbledon 2023 but he is no longer reverting to his former success.
The 35-year-old Briton is now an average tennis ace. It is not long before Andy Murray ends his career and focuses on raising four children with his wife Kim Sears. It’s a shame that injuries have prevented Andy from achieving more on the court, but the result he has is still more than solid. Only Murray and Stan Wawrinka have won more than one Slam (both have three) in the Big Three era.