Commentary

U.S. Open men's final instant analysis

Follow all the action as Roger Federer and Andy Murray compete for the U.S. Open title.

Updated: September 8, 2008, 8:06 PM ET
By Ravi Ubha | Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: Roger Federer has one more chance to salvage a deflated season. After missed opportunities in the French Open and Wimbledon finals, the venerable one has the luxury of not playing Rafael Nadal in the U.S. Open finale.

But this match is not a foregone conclusion. Federer's opponent, Andy Murray, is playing with moxie and determination. He was convincing in a four-set win over Nadal in the semifinals and has had an all-around stellar summer.

Don't miss a second of the final Grand Slam match of the year. Ravi Ubha is providing instant analysis through the duration of the match.

Third set

For Murray fans who are looking for a little hope, remember that he rallied from two sets down against Richard Gasquet in the fourth round at Wimbledon. This, yes, is in a final, and against someone slightly better than Gasquet.

Federer is cruising, and holds at 15. On the opening point of the second game, a tremendous drop shot leaves Murray with no chance.

"The air is seeping out of the balloon,'' McEnroe says when Murray falls behind 0-30 with a routine backhand error.

Yes, they're different players, but Murray was mixing it up against Nadal, serving and volleying, and often on second serve. No sign of that here.

0-40, and it's 2-0 when a Murray forehand rolls into the net.

This could be one quick set.

The crowd is silent.

Hold the phone. Up 15-0 and with Murray seemingly out of it mentally, Federer sends a forehand long for 15-30.

Federer makes a well-constructed point and keeps the ball to Murray's forehand for most of the point. On at least two forehands, Murray should have put the ball away, but doesn't. He also stays back and eventually pays the price.

We're somehow at deuce, with Murray still hustling to get to a low volley and sending back a pass that Federer doesn't expect. The joy is short-lived, as Federer wins the next two points. 3-0 Federer.

Federer isn't content to rally from the back, and he forces a lob error. A double fault and backhand error on a passing shot make it 0-40. A bagel beckons. Federer finishes off the game with a backhand pass. 4-0.

Murray isn't endearing himself now. He has to at least put in some effort.

It's now 30-0 for Federer, who has dropped only four points in the third.

Another love game for 5-0, and thankfully the end is near.

Federer continues to come in, though this time gets burned when a backhand volley hits the net. 15-all. An ace out wide makes it 30-15, and a return into the net ups it to 40-15.

Murray holds and gets nice applause from the crowd.

"Never going to win another one,'' McEnroe says sarcastically, referring to Federer's doubters.

Federer is at 30-15, and it's interesting to see how he reacts on match point, when it inevitably comes. Maybe we'll have to wait.

Murray shows some life by uncorking a cross-court forehand for 30-40. Where was this before? He does indeed break when a backhand hits the net. 5-2. Only a stay of execution.

Federer is two points away again from clinching it, after a Murray lob goes long and another error follows. At 0-30, Murray goes for a backhand down the line with Federer out of position and succeeds, now 15-30. Federer is unlucky on the next point, a forehand that looked certain to be a winner clipping the next and going wide. 30-all. 40-30 on a backhand long.

Wouldn't it at least be interesting if Murray can hold?

Not yet. Murray's slow second serve is punished. A double fault follows, and it's a first match point.

Saved.

Murray comes in behind a good first serve, and Federer does well simply to get a racket on it. It goes over, and Murray sticks the volley.

But another match point, on a forced error. And there it is.

Murray staves off the inevitable by retrieving a couple of fierce drives, but another is just too much. He sends a Federer shot overhead into the net. 6-2.

Federer sinks to his knees, lies with his back down on the court, and has a nice exchange at the net with Murray.

A fifth-straight title in New York. Is the old Fed back?

Federer wins the match and championship 6-2, 7-5, 6-2.

A spectacle it wasn't, but Federer did what he had to, mixing it up and dictating. He finished with 36 winners and 33 unforced errors, getting away with serving at 59 percent, which normally isn't good enough against a returner like Murray.

Murray was a shadow of the player who downed Nadal and appeared to be struggling with his knee. (It'll be interesting to see what he says in his news conference.) His first-serve percentage stood at 54 percent, and he was minus-12 in the winners-to-unforced errors ratio.

Murray picks up $1 million for his work, a $250,000 bonus for finishing second in the U.S. Open Series coupled with the $750,000 runner-up check. He didn't seem too down.

"I played three matches on Arthur Ashe, and it's been the best time of my life," he said during the awards ceremony.

Federer, like Murray, thanked the fans and couldn't stop smiling.

"This is very special in my case," he said. "Had a couple of tough Grand Slams. It means the world to me."

Not many would bet against Federer tying Sampras' record, at the very least, in 2009.

"One thing is for sure, I'm not going to stop at 13," he said. "That would be terrible."

Second set
Murray doesn't appear to be moving as well as he did against Nadal.

No way can he afford to fall behind two sets to none.

Murray is one of the best returners around, but he's finding it difficult against Federer. Another easy hold it is, to 15, Federer doing all the dictating and moving wonderfully himself. Federer is on a roll, 1-0.

"The day off for him really seems to have helped him,'' McEnroe says.

Murray's backhand was awesome against Nadal -- here he miscues when a cross-court backhand goes into the net.

"He's not in full gear, that's for sure,'' McEnroe says.

Federer punishes a second serve that's less than 80 mph, depositing a forehand winner down the line. Murray gets one back and yells, "Come on.'' He's not out of the woods in this game yet, though getting closer. He bullies Federer and draws an error. It's three straight backhand errors and Murray leads 40-30. Deuce, a forehand mishit.

A second deuce.

Danger, as Murray sends an easy forehand with an open court into the net. Break point again. Federer makes it look easy. The forehand, often shaky this season, does the damage again. A cross-court angled stroke clinches the game for 2-0. Murray is in big trouble. Federer is winning more points behind his second serve than Murray on his first.

Murray needs to break back, you feel.

And here's a chance, at 0-30, after a backhand down the line. 0-40 and his first break points when he unleashes a wicked return, something Nadal saw plenty of. He breaks on his first chance, drawing a volley error from Federer. 2-1 Federer. Is that a turning point?

Murray ghosts in when Federer floats a backhand and promptly deposits it into the corner. Five straight points, 15-0. The run ends, thanks to a forehand into the corner.

A key point at 30-15. Federer smashes a second serve return, but Murray scoops it back on the half volley to stay in the point and leads 40-15. 2-2.

How quickly things can change.

Federer fails behind 0-30 when a forehand sails long. All of a sudden, Federer is getting ravaged on his second serve. Federer dumps a volley, and it's 0-40. Murray has won seven straight points on his opponent's serve.

Federer gets a tad lucky to thwart the first -- two forehands hit the back of the line. 15-40. Federer gets lucky again -- and Murray makes a big mistake. Federer hits a backhand slice that looks long. Murray keeps playing and eventually loses the point. He goes back to the spot and points to a mark. CBS replays the point, and it was indeed long.

Guess what happens next? Federer wins the point and gets to a game point. A backhand dumped into the net brings it back to deuce.

If Murray loses this game, how will he get it out of his head?

Federer indeed digs out of the hole and it's 3-2. Huge.

Interesting to see how Murray reacts now.

Federer wins the first point, and at 15-all, looks like he's in command. Murray, though, stretches to deliver a forehand pass that Federer can't get over the net. 3-3, when it should be 4-2 for Murray. Then again, he had to stop the point immediately if he knew the ball was out. Federer said early in the tournament that he couldn't think of a match that turned on a challenge. Well, this one could turn on a challenge that wasn't made.

Federer falls behind 15-30, though, and he's pestering Federer constantly on his serve. Murray mishits a forehand and yells, "Focus.''

Federer is focused, depositing a forehand into the corner. He holds for 4-3.

Uh-oh.

Murray grimaces after the first point of the eighth game, holding his right knee -- not for the first time.

Who says not having an extra day's rest doesn't help?

It doesn't hinder him in the score, however, and he takes a 40-0 lead. A second-serve ace at 40-15 gets us to 4-4. Murray pumps his fist.

Federer balloons a forehand to fall behind again on serve and does well to pull it to 15-all, reacting well at the net to deal with a net cord. Murray misses a chance next, his forehand approach with Federer out of position goes wide. He makes up for it with a forehand pass, though he sends a forehand long for 40-30. Federer holds for 5-4.

Murray must hold now.

It's not a good start, as a routine forehand drifts wide early in the rally. A cross-court backhand, the kind he was making against Nadal, this time finds the target, and it's 15-all. Murray doesn't want to go toe-to-toe on forehands, but he gets fortunate when a Federer drive goes well long. 30-15, which turns into 40-15 on a forehand error. Another Federer error gives Murray the game. 5-5.

What a get by Murray at 30-0 in the next game. Federer lobs Murray, who runs back and retrieves it, later drawing an error. With momentum in his favor, Murray draws an error on the next point and it's 30-all. Fans are really behind Murray, not wanting a straight-sets affair.

Federer, though, is assured of at least a tiebreaker when a Murray ground stroke is long.

6-5 Federer.

Another must-hold for Murray, who falls behind when a Federer return sets up the point. Trouble now as Federer deposits a volley into the corner for 0-30. Three set points and probably match points now. Federer makes Murray pass him, but he can't. 0-40, and the set goes to Federer when he curls a forehand down the line. Federer turns to his box and pumps his fist. 7-5, and not much chance anymore for Murray.

Federer got away with it in that set, helped immensely by that blown call and no Murray challenge.

First set
The grand occasion hasn't altered Murray's appearance -- his semi-beard is still there. Will he be overly nervous? We guess not. Murray is a confident guy who believes he should be hanging around the top three, and he kept it together against Nadal.

On another note, Murray's serve is discussed a lot. His percentage isn't great, at 57 before the tournament began, but he was at 65 percent against Nadal and added 21 aces. He'll probably need to serve like that.

Murray won the toss and elected to receive.

We're off.

Federer sends a first serve down the middle for a service winner, then an ace. Murray sends a second-serve return into the net for 40-0, and an easy hold it is, thanks to a backhand crosscourt. 1-0 Federer.

Murray misses a backhand wide to fall behind 0-15, and it's five straight points for Federer. Not a good start for Murray.

Murray finally gets on the board with a service winner, then takes a 30-15 lead with an ace. A stunning forehand pass ensues and Murray eventually holds at 15 -- an important one. 1-1.

Murray, at this early stage, can't get a sniff of Federer's serve. Now 30-0. And there's the first point against Federer on serve, a backhand volley sailing wide. On the next point we see just how good Murray is tracking down balls. He extends to reach a shot and sends back a looping forehand winner. The ball stays in with the help of the wind, which isn't tame. From 30-all, Federer holds for 2-1.

Murray has been known to throw in a few drop shots, and many are ill timed. Here's another. At 15-all, Murray goes to the drop early and gets lucky when Federer can't put the reply away. With Federer a lame duck at the net, Murray's backhand isn't good enough, Federer volleys it back and eventually wins the point. Murray can't make many of those mental mistakes.

Here's the first break point, at 30-40, when Federer withstands some blunt Murray forehands and eventually wins it when a forehand is mishit. Murray's forehand, not as steady as his backhand, wins him the next point. The first deuce.

A forehand wide, and a second-serve return into the net makes it 2-2.

"Andy's gotta feel pretty good he was able to pull that game out,'' John McEnroe, in the broadcast booth for CBS, says.

Murray, just as he did against Nadal, is standing well behind the baseline to return serve. Still, at 30-15, Federer delivers a good serve out wide for 40-15. Another big serve causes Murray to float a forehand long. 3-2 Federer.

For the third time, Federer gets ahead on Murray's serve, a forehand floating long. Now it's trouble -- a double fault, the first -- takes it to 0-30. Federer, though, goes for a forehand early in the rally and has too much juice on it. 15-30. He recovers, doing well to retrieve a forehand in the corner and Murray sends a backhand into the net. Two more break points. A Murray forehand cross court is called out, and Murray makes his first challenge. The call stands -- Murray now 3-for-18 on challenges in the tournament -- and Federer seizes the initiative for 4-2.

Murray would love to break back and gets off to a lucky start, a Murray return clipping the top of the net and falling over, giving Federer, as speedy as he is, no chance. Wow. Federer is sizzling. At 15-all, Murray floats back a backhand, Federer comes in and puts away a swinging volley. Ultra aggressive, Federer comes in on the next point behind a forehand down the line, drawing a mistake. 40-15.

Federer not allowing Murray to be aggressive, like he was against Nadal. Federer holds for 5-2, thanks to a service winner.

Time for a stat update.

Federer serving at 75 percent and winning 87 percent of those points. Nine winners, six unforced errors. Murray is minus-five in the winners-unforced errors ratio.

The wind behind him, Murray needs to hold, but falls behind 15-30 when a backhand goes long. Two set points for Federer after he slams a forehand cross court.

"Roger is absolutely crushing the ball," McEnroe says.

One saved when a return goes into the net, but not the second -- a Murray backhand wide. 6-2 first set, in 26 minutes.

Maybe it'll end in straight sets after all.

Prematch
If the men's final between Andy Murray and Roger Federer is anything like Sunday's women's finale between maiden Grand Slam finalist Jelena Jankovic and champion Serena Williams, fans are in for a treat.

Murray, too, is a first time Grand Slam finalist hoping to upset the favorite. Federer seeks to salvage his season by becoming the first man since Bill Tilden in the 1920s to claim five straight U.S. Open titles and thus lift his Grand Slam tally to 13, one behind men's record holder Pete Sampras.

Murray is on the verge of rewriting the record books, too. The last British man to win a major was Fred Perry, at the 1936 U.S. Open. Blessed with a versatile game, Murray is up to a career-high fourth in the rankings and leads the Swiss 2-1 in their head-to-heads. So frustrated was Federer in a first-round loss to Murray in Dubai this spring -- he was on his way back from mono -- that he whined about the Scot's defensive tactics. Two years ago in Cincinnati, Murray won in straight sets amid whispers that Federer was pooped and not completely focused, shall we say.

It should be interesting, then, with a straight-sets victory for either looking unlikely. Murray, just to set the record straight, said Sunday that his lack of rest for the final won't affect him. He had less than 24 hours to ready himself after beating world No. 1 Rafael Nadal; Federer had more than 48. Murray, 21, is now in good shape, having taken his fitness seriously.

Another nice day in New York, by the way.

Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.