On this day seven years ago, Andy Murray won his first Grand Slam.
In this edition of ‘Inside The Vault,’ we revisit Murray’s momentous victory over Novak Djokovic in the 2012 US Open tennis final.
Before there was a ‘Big Four,’ there was a ‘Big Three’.
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic ruled the world of tennis (as they largely still do) like three hungry monarchs.
There were plenty of pretenders to their thrones, and by 2012, one Scotsman in particular was getting ever closer to joining the feast at the top table.
Andy Murray had broken into the world’s top 10 five years earlier, and the top four two years after that, but a maiden Grand Slam remained tantalizingly elusive.
Murray tasted defeat in four consecutive Grand Slam finals between 2008 and 2012, as the reigning triumvirate stubbornly refused to accept another member into their all-conquering ranks.
He hovered on the precipice of greatness, continually falling just short of the top prizes.
2012, however, proved to be a huge year in the career of Murray.
The Scotsman linked up with trainer Ivan Lendl, a former Czech tennis player who had also lost his first four Grand Slam finals.
At Wimbledon that year, Murray became the first British man to reach the final in more than 70 years.
Six-time champion Federer awaited, as did more heartbreak for Murray.
Two of Murray’s previous three Grand Slam final defeats had been inflicted by Federer, and the history-chasing Swiss star emerged victorious once again.
After three hours and 24 minutes on centre court, Federer won the final 4–6, 7–5, 6–3, 6–4.
It was a record-equaling seventh Wimbledon title for Federer, and a fourth consecutive Grand Slam final defeat for Murray.
However, Murray would soon avenge that loss.
Poetically, he won Olympic gold that August at the London Olympics, defeating Federer in the men’s final on the hallowed Wimbledon ground.
Less than a month later, Murray, then 25, reached another major final.
Entering the tournament as third seed, Murray eased past Alex Bogomolov and Ivan Dodig in the early rounds.
Feliciano López proved a tougher opponent in the third round, but Murray prevailed and quickly navigated his way past Milos Raonic in the fourth round.
Overall, Murray dropped just one set in those first four matches.
He then had to come from a set and two breaks down against Marin Čilić in the quarter-final to eventually win in four sets.
It took four hours to overcome Tomáš Berdych in the semi-final, with Murray again forced to rally from a set down.
Defending champion Djokovic awaited Murray in the final.
The Serb – who was the tournament’s top seed – entered the decider in ominous form, having dropped just one set in six matches on his way to the final.
Despite his good form, the augurs didn’t look great for Murray, who was hoping for his 100th Grand Slam match win.
Djokovic had already won five Grand Slam titles by this time, beating Murray in Melbourne on the way to capturing his fifth title.
The 2012 US Open also marked the 14th consecutive Grand Slam in which Djokovic had made it at least as far as the last eight.
As if he needed further incentive, Djokovic also had the chance to claim the biggest pay-day in the history of the sport, $US2.9 million ($2.8 million) for winning the trophy as well as having the best record in the lead-up tournaments Fox Sports).
Fred Perry had been the last British tennis player to win a Grand Slam title, way back in 1936, and no Scottish-born player had won one since Harold Mahony in 1896.
No player in history had ever won both the Olympics and the US Open in the same year.
However, Murray made a blistering start to the final in New York, claiming the first two sets.
He prevailed 12-10 in the first set after the longest tiebreak in US Open history, which lasted a staggering 24 minutes.
The lengthy tiebreak meant the first set alone lasted 87 minutes.
Murray raced into a 4-0 lead in the second set, but Djokovic eventually recovered to draw level on five games apiece.
Murray kept his nerve on his own serve before breaking Djokovic’s serve to win the second set 7-5.
Djokovic roared into life in the third, smashing Murray 6-2 after breaking his opponent’s serve twice.
The Serbian star then won the fourth set 6-3, sending the final to a fifth set.
Murray was not to be deterred.
He took a 5-2 lead in the fifth, and then went 40-15 for match point.
Djokovic had saved the first match point, but his return at 40-15 went just over the baseline.
His error brought an end to an enthralling final which – at four hours and 54 minutes – equaled the longest US Open final of all time.
Murray, overcome with emotion, put his hands over his face and dropped to his hunkers. His victory secured his 24th career title, but his first Grand Slam.
“I proved that I can win the grand slams,” a relieved Murray said afterwards.
“And I proved that I can last four-and-a-half hours and come out on top against one of the strongest guys physically that tennis had probably seen, especially on this surface.”
Djokovic, humble in defeat, claimed Murray was a deserving winner.
“He deserved to win this Grand Slam more than anybody because over the years he has been a top player, he has been so close, lost four finals,” the Serb said.
“Now he has won it so I would like to congratulate him. Definitely happy that he won it. Us four (The Big Four), we are taking this game to another level. It’s really nice to be part of such a strong men’s tennis era.”
Murray had finally joined the top table.