By Eleanor Crooks, PA Tennis Correspondent, New York
Andy Murray wound back the clock on the eve of a US Open that marks a decade since he first became a grand slam champion.
It was at Flushing Meadows in 2012 that Murray made it across the line in his fifth slam final, defeating Novak Djokovic to lift the trophy on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
His most vivid memories are from before and after the final, with the Scot recalling: “I remember how I felt before the match. I remember being in the locker room on my own and feeling unbelievably nervous and feeling pretty lonely and kind of feeling a lot of pressure.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 11, 2012
“I remember after the match going back on to the court before I left the venue. I just wanted to be out there on my own.
“I was very proud of myself. I didn’t feel like going wild and celebrating and that sort of stuff. I just felt quite relaxed and it was just such a big relief to get over that line.”
The near misses had added up for Murray since he made his first slam final in New York in 2008.
As well as three more finals he had lost six semi-finals and every slam brought with it the endless questions of when he would finally end Britain’s long wait for a male champion.
It was a dramatic tournament, with Murray coming from a set down against Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals and then again to beat Tomas Berdych amid a New York storm in the last four before Sir Sean Connery and Sir Alex Ferguson gatecrashed his press conference.
The final was suitably epic, with Djokovic threatening a comeback having been two sets down only for Murray to prevail in the decider.
“That was a huge moment for me,” Murray said. “I’d been put under a lot of pressure to try and achieve that. A lot of what I’d achieved in my career up to that point felt, to me anyway, kind of irrelevant because of the questions I’d continued to get asked about winning slams.
“Am I good enough? Am I fit enough? Am I mentally strong enough? Lots and lots of questions over a period of time.
— Mark Petchey (@_markpetchey) August 28, 2022
“And it was nice to finally be able to move on from that because it’s not particularly helpful, and also the players I was competing against – maybe at the time they were all great players but not how everyone is seeing them now.
“They’re pretty much being seen as the three best tennis players of all time, certainly on the men’s side. It wasn’t easy to win slams in this era. I was aware of that. But I don’t think everyone else was.”
Murray’s ambitions 10 years on are more modest, with the Scot still searching for the form and results he would like as he approaches the final act of his career.
The 35-year-old has won only one of four matches on the North American hard courts and has struggled with repeated bouts of cramp for which he has not yet found an explanation.
No one wants to see these unseeded players across the net 👀
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 28, 2022
He will pay a lot of attention to his hydration levels in New York to try to avoid the same thing happening when he takes on 24th seed Francisco Cerundolo in the first round on Monday.
The Argentinian is primarily a clay-court player and Murray could certainly have had worse draws.
“I feel good,” he said. “I’ve played well in practice. Obviously the build-up was not perfect but there were some good signs. Like in Cincinnati, I played some good tennis, and I believe that, when the tournament starts on Monday, I’ll put in a good performance.”