One day after playing in a wind so strong it blew a chair onto the court, Andy Murray took a seat to rest up for the U.S. Open final.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic had to finish his delayed semifinal at the National Tennis Center in New York yesterday, beating fourth-seeded David Ferrer of Spain 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 to reach his fifth final in six major tournaments.
Today’s men’s championship, pushed to Monday for the fifth straight year due to weather, features two players who have traded wins in their last six matches. Murray, a four-time Grand Slam runner-up who is seeking to become the first male British major tournament winner in 76 years, last played Djokovic in the semifinals at the London Olympics, winning 7-5, 7-5 en route to a gold medal. Their last Grand Slam meeting came in the final four at January’s Australian Open, a match Djokovic won in five sets before notching his fifth major title.
“I guess there is no clear favorite,” Djokovic, who at 25 is one week younger than Murray, said yesterday at a news conference. “He’s going to be very motivated to win the title, but me too.”
Second-seeded Djokovic is the 2-5 favorite to win his sixth Grand Slam championship at the Las Vegas Hotel’s Super Book, meaning a successful $250 wager on the Serb would net $100. A successful $100 bet on underdog Murray, the No. 3 seed, would yield a $210 profit. The match starts at 4 p.m. New York time.
Djokovic was trailing 5-2 in the first set against Ferrer in Arthur Ashe Stadium and looking overwhelmed by the wind when the threat of severe weather prompted the U.S. Tennis Association to postpone play. He returned yesterday and dominated the Spaniard, winning the final three sets in 1 hour, 55 minutes.
A day earlier, the USTA considered playing both semifinals at the same time to beat the approaching storm -- with one in Louis Armstrong Stadium, which is less than half the size of 23,000-seat Ashe -- and decided against it. It was a decision Djokovic said he agreed with.
He also didn’t mind having play halted, even if it meant playing the semifinal and final on back-to-back days, and facing a well-rested Murray.
“The outcome is the way it is,” Djokovic said, smiling, when asked if he could have beaten Ferrer in the wind. “I don’t want to go back.”
Instead he’s looking forward to facing Murray, whose first appearance in a Grand Slam final was four years ago in New York, a straight-set loss to Roger Federer. Since then, Murray also has dropped two finals in Australia, to Federer in 2010 and Djokovic last year, and another to Federer at Wimbledon this year before avenging the defeat with Olympic gold.
“I’m obviously a lot more mature,” Murray said in a news conference. “I have had a lot more experience in these sort of situations.”
“You couldn’t really say who was going to win that match up to the last point,” Djokovic said.
Djokovic is playing his third-straight U.S. Open final. With a win, he’d be the first to successfully defend the men’s title since Federer in 2008.
A victory would make Murray the first man to win a gold medal and U.S. Open in the same year since tennis returned to the Olympics in 1988.
Murray said he planned to take the free day to work on his stroke after altering it to overcome the wind.
“I would be nice to get a rest and to be able to practice and get your rhythm back,” he said after his semifinal match. “Some the the shots I was playing out there today I certainly won’t be playing.”
Fred Perry was the most recent British man to win a Grand Slam, claiming 10 between 1933-36, including three at the U.S. Championships, the predecessor of the U.S. Open. This is Murray’s 28th major tournament.
The winner will make $1.9 million and the runner-up $950,000. Djokovic, who won the U.S. Open Series title, will get a $1 million bonus if he wins and $500,000 if he loses.
Before their wind-swept matches two days ago, Murray and Djokovic watched a Serbia-Scotland World Cup soccer qualifying match together. While that game ended in a scoreless draw, a rain-free weather forecast today means the match in New York will yield a winner.
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