His blown hat and racket thrown to the ground signaled that Andy Murray was about to start the downhill slide that would make him victim rather than big winner. Of course, the brutal wind was a third player, pushing balls aside and making conditions on one side of the court a dance with the devil.
Andy Murray was being outplayed. Tomas Berdych was ready to assume the mantel of U.S. Open winner, with more to come. Murray was facing trouble which, although close in the first set, defined him as a player.
Especially with wind, Murray was weakened by the incidents and found himself down a set, 7-5. The set lasted one hour and 15 minutes in large part due to the care both were taking because of the wind.
The second set was different. Play was stopped at critical points in the second set, seemingly making Murray's first-set victory recede into distant times, as things blew all over the court.
Mary Carillo came up with another of her few words during the second stoppage that are always so enjoyable. She added "cows flying overhead," her take on the delay during Berdych's serve as the ball boy grabbed the straw that had wandered on the court in an unbelievable gust.
As the players were making adjustments, Carillo added, "Kim Sears with her hair pulled back. Good adjustment by her too."
Forcing himself to downplay his game, the start of the second game showed its future with a quick break of serve for Murray.
The end of the first set should have been a sign for Berdych: go for broke and let the game happen.
But for the first two games, Berdych was tentative, perhaps because, if anything, the wind had increased.
By the time he started any offense, it was too late in the second set and too late in the match.
Berdych could have played far better. His 4-2 record against Murray notwithstanding, Berdych seemed lost in the wind, which Murray handled as if playing in his windy home country. Whatever you say, Murray was helped far more by the wind, given his origins. Berdych seemed lost at times.
Yet despite the middle-two stanzas of this rock-and-roll match, the last one had the most heart.
Fully pressured to play his best, Berdych broke back from an early break and had a few chances in the fourth set. Down 5-6, Berdych won the first point, lost the second and won the third, making it 30-15.
The game ended with an ace, turning the match to a tiebreak.
The tiebreak seemed destined to send the match into the fifth set. Up 6-4, Berdych squandered his shots long each time, with the match ending at 7-6.
An upset so close, yet not to be.
Murray acquitted himself well, particularly in the wind.
Perhaps this is his championship to lose. Yet Berdych overcame his 64 unforced errors and still made it close.
This is clearly still a tough quest for Murray, who remains a favorite to win his first US Open.
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