NEW YORK - It has been a season of firsts for Scotsman Andy Murray, who reached a Wimbledon final and won the Olympic tennis gold medal at the All-England Club.
The last tick off on his 2012 wish list is now within tantalising reach as Murray's 5-7 6-2 6-1 7-6 win in the U.S. Open semi-finals on Saturday against Czech Tomas Berdych put him within one victory of becoming the first Briton in 76 years to win a men's grand slam singles crown.
Not since Fred Perry claimed the U.S. nationals title in 1936 has a British man triumphed in a slam and Murray will be gunning to end that streak when he faces either defending champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia or Spain's David Ferrer in Monday's final. Their match was suspended by weather on Saturday and will resume on Sunday.
"It's the last thing that I really want to achieve in my career," Murray said of the title.
Murray has come up short in four previous grand slam finals. His first championship match was at the U.S. Open in 2008 where he lost to Roger Federer, and his latest near miss came after a rousing final against Federer at Wimbledon, where he was the first Briton to play for the title since Bunny Austin in 1938.
The Scotsman returned to the All England Club the next month to sweep past Federer in the London 2012 gold medal match and finally taste triumph on the famed centre court.
"Winning the Olympics did, for me, take a bit of the pressure off. I did feel a lot better after that. Maybe I had less doubts about myself and my place in the game just now.
"But winning a major is the last thing that I really want to do. It means a lot to me. You saw obviously at Wimbledon how much that meant to me," Murray said about his emotional speech after having to settle for the consolation prize.
"It's obviously not easy to lose another slam final, so I hope this one is a different story."
Murray advanced to a second grand slam final for the first time in the same season when he prevailed over Berdych in windy conditions that bordered on unplayable.
Despite dealing with debris blown on the court, including a chair with towels and a bag sliding across from the sidelines, wind-blown service tosses and his own hat flying off in mid-point to the ultimate cost of a service break, Murray showed his skills by making only 20 unforced errors in the four-hour match.
Berdych, lacking the finesse of the sweet-swinging Scotsman, committed 64 errors in a gaping disparity.
"It's probably the toughest conditions I have played in," said Murray. "It was pretty much four hours, the match, and it was brutal."
Murray said he had learned a lot from his experiences over the years and treasured the opportunity for another crack at notching his first career grand slam title.
"The Olympics was the biggest win of my career by far. You know, it meant a lot to me, too," he said. "Whatever happens in the (Open) final, it's been a great year. But, you know, all I want to make sure I do in the final is that I give 110 percent.
"I know how hard these opportunities are to come by and I will give it everything."
(Editing by Gene Cherry)