12/6/12 4:33 PM | Ricky Dimon
Tennistalk's countdown of 2012's Top 10 matches continues with numbers three and four. Both featured Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, one in Melbourne and one in Flushing Meadows.
4. Novak Djokovic vs. Andy Murray 6-3, 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-1, 7-5 - Australian Open semifinals
Rarely does the Australian Open fail to give us memorable, five-set epics. With only two matches remaining, the 2012 installment delivered--starting with a grueling semifinal between Djokovic and Murray. It lasted four hours and 50 minutes, complete with brutal rallies and gut-wrenching momentum swings. With winners always at a premium when a match features two of the best defensive players in tennis, Djokovic and Murray combined for 96 such shots. Most of their errors came at the end of 20, 30, even 40-ball exchanges.
The two competitors alternated sets through the fourth--with Murray always ahead by one set or tied--until Djokovic parlayed his momentum from a dominant fourth into a hard-fought, victorious fifth. The top-ranked Serb led 5-2 in the decider but dropped three games in a row and even faced break points at 5-5. However, he recovered one last time to hold and break his opponent for the win.
"I think we both went through a physical crisis," Djokovic explained. "You have to find strength in those moments and energy, and that keeps you going. At this level, very few points decide the winner. It was a very even match throughout, from the first to the last point. He was fighting. I was fighting. It was a physical match. It was one of the best matches I played. Emotionally and mentally it was equally hard. Not many words that can describe the feeling of the match."
3. Andy Murray d. Novak Djokovic 7-6(10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 - U.S. Open final
After another heartbreak at Wimbledon, Murray needed something to get his big-match confidence on track in time for the U.S. Open. When the third-ranked Scot captured gold at the Olympics, many thought it would propel him to even bigger and better things. It did...and a lot sooner than most expected.
Displaying the strongest mental fortitude of his career, Murray stormed back from a set and 5-1 deficit against Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals before braving the elements to beat Tomas Berdych in the semis. It showed again, to an even greater extent, when Murray blew a two-set lead in the title match and saw Djokovic force a fifth. With his slam dreams slipping away at the hands of an inspired, more experienced opponent, and having already been out there for more than four hours (the first two sets alone lasted 2:26), Murray dug deep and broke early in the final set and persevered to victory. The reward for four hours and 54 minutes of high-quality tennis was his first Grand Slam triumph.
"You know, when you get so close to achieving really my last goal I had left to achieve in tennis in winning a Grand Slam, and when you have been there many times and not done it, it is easy to doubt yourself," Murray admitted. "I'm just glad I managed to finally do it.... When I was serving for the match, it's something that I realized how important that moment was for British tennis or British sport. It's something that hasn't happened for a long time obviously in our country so I'm obviously proud that I managed to achieve it. Everyone's in a bit of shock, to be honest."
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