Fighting the WindMore than once, Tomas Berdych missed the ball completely and was left wrong-footed, because the ball slowed, moved, or sped-up in mid-air. Murray looked helpless, and at one point his chair and racket-bag blew on to the court.
But great players will always come through; the wind affected both of them, so it was up to who could adapt better. Murray made multiple strategic adjustments, starting with a lower toss on his serve to minimize wind interference, to hitting a slow return to Berdych's powerful forehand, which baited him into bad misses. It was not pretty, but it was effective, and it really came down to getting creative and being adaptive on the court.
Mental Toughness, Not CoolnessAs Berdych was poised to take the first set, Murray threw his racket on the ground - not too hard - and an untimely closeup shot revealed some colorful vocabulary. A few minutes later, he smacked his head hard a couple of times, and looked dejected as Berdych won 7-5, breaking Murray in the last game and coming back to win after an early Murray break. It hadn't been a good set for Murray - dealing with the wind and a difficult opponent in Berdych, Murray also had some frustrating moments when his hat flew off and a point had to be replayed - a break point Murray thought he had saved. The umpire ordered a replay, and Murray lost the point, and allowed Berdych to break back.
But don't read that as a lack of mental toughness. Murray had plenty of that today, and despite the overnight "favorite underdog" label that Berdych received after beating Roger Federer, Murray was still very much the favorite - and played that way. He did not sulk through the second set but came out firing, breaking early and used his drop-shot wisely. It was one way traffic until Berdych broke back in the fourth to try to keep his dream run alive, but when push came to shove in the tiebreaker, it was Murray who prevailed.
Berdych appeared calm throughout the entire match, and for a man in his first U.S. Open semifinal, did not show any nerves. No racket throwing, no frustration - just business. Yet his play suggested differently, with a wildly inconsistent serve (to be fair, the wind had a lot to do with it, but it affected both players), and going for big shots when he really should have been trying to just play the ball in. At first glance, the 6'5 man from the Czech Republic seemed like the giant killer that he was against Roger Federer, but Murray's quality was proved in the end.
Fifth Final for MurrayThis was the day many expected to come when Murray won the Olympic gold - a U.S. Open finals appearance, at the very least. I like what I see from Murray, and I would back him to beat Novak Djokovic in the final. The way he has played has been good enough to win, and the adjustments he was able to make proves to me that his mental game can now match his physical one.
Brian has been a lifelong tennis fan and has written about tennis since 2009