The battering wind did its worst, but in the end it was Andy Murray who blew Tomas Berdych off Arthur Ashe court to move into his second US Open final, edging a tense, cagey affair 5-7 6-2 6-1 7-6.
Before this match, the Scot had promised to go at Berdych from the off. But with a near gale-force wind swirling fast-food wrappers, crisp bags and even chairs across the court, Plan B was soon mobilised.
At first, Murray’s tactics – so cat-and-mouse, it was like a boxed set of Tom and Jerry – appeared to pay dividends, as he drifted low, ambiguous groundshots into his opponent’s strike zone. With Berdych unable to set himself properly for his vicious backcourt play, it looked like a tactical masterclass, and the Scot broke for 2-1.
It was a false dawn. Berdych gained the measure of his groundshots and broke right back, aided by a kerfuffle over Murray’s displaced hat, which sparked an animated discussion over the net tape with the tetchy Czech.
With the players constantly revisiting their service tosses, beckoning ballboys to collect hats and pizza wrappers from the playing surface and cussing at Mother Nature, this was a match for purists and weather experts only.Read more (374 words)
The meteorological purism continued until 5-6, when Murray threw in a service game as wild as the New York winds to concede the opening set. Chairs and bags blown onto court (1 video)
It was time to abandon Tom and Jerry. Murray said ‘That’s all, folks’ and moved on to Plan B. The opening set had been so technically strained and edgy, it was like the interval in a Pinter play, but the Scot soon began to strike through the ball, taking the wind out of Berdych’s sails and storming to a 5-1 lead.
In the first set, Murray had sliced and diced for Scotland, but now his topspin drives took the initiative and he sealed the second set with a service winner.
Set three was a similar story, the British number one becoming puppet-master, tugging the Czech around the court and powering through Berdych’s defences to lead 4-0, as the new world number six took an extended mental vacation. With Berdych visibly affected by the conditions and unable to plunder his treasure trove of easy service winners, Murray sealed the set 6-1.
The fourth opened in similar fashion and Murray’s fans hoped the Scot would blow Berdych off court just as easily as the chairs, kitbag and crisp packets blew onto it at the end of the third.
As the Scot carved out a 3-0 lead, so it seemed. But the gusts had dropped slightly to merely hurricane force and some tornado forehands and nuclear serving from the Czech pegged the Scot back at 3-3.
Berdych was pressing, but Murray was always able to exert scoreboard pressure by clinging onto his serve, even though that sometimes meant making a thousand micro-adjustments to his foot positioning and catapulting himself into seemingly impossible improvisations. This match was no breeze.
Inevitably, this tense, nervous headache of an encounter frazzled its way into a fourth-set tiebreak. Despite falling behind 2-5, Murray drew on his superior breaker record in 2012 (13-5, against Berdych’s 16-14) to claw his way back and seal it with some unanswerable groundshot missiles.
The new world number three now awaits the winner of the Ferrer-Djokovic semi-final, aware that he stands on the threshold of his fifth grand-slam final. His coach, Ivan Lendl, will have no need to remind him of the significance of the number.