Bay Area tennis fans who attended the 2006 SAP Open Finals on Sunday, February 19 took a glimpse into the future of the worldwide ATP circuit while simultaneously looking at years past as a teen sensation and a tennis legend each captured SAP Open tennis titles at HP Pavilion.
Scottish teen sensation Andy Murray upset third-seeded Lleyton Hewitt 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(3) in the 2006 SAP Open singles final, to capture his first career ATP title. In the SAP Open doubles final, it was tennis legend John McEnroe who teamed with partner Jonas Bjorkman to capture doubles title #78, the first for the duo as a team, and delight the crowd of more than 7,100.
For Murray, the quest for his first career title was not easy. On Saturday in the semifinals, Murray needed two grueling sets to defeat the tournament’s top-seeded player and fan-favorite Andy Roddick 7-5, 7-5. Sunday would prove to be even more difficult. Hewitt won the first set in 43 minutes, breaking Murray three times while losing his serve once. The Aussie broke in the second game before losing his serve in the next game. After Murray held for 2-all, Hewitt won the last four games of the set as Murray netted backhands on break point in the sixth and eighth games.
Hewitt, who had not dropped a set all week, lost serve three times in the second set. Murray broke in the opening game when Hewitt netted a backhand, and broke Hewitt again with a backhand winner down the line to take a 3-0 lead. Murray went on to break again in the seventh game to win 6-1 when Hewitt double-faulted.
In the third set, Hewitt found himself playing catch-up after Murray went up 2-0 when he hit a winner down the line off Hewitt's second serve. The Aussie broke right back when Murray netted a forehand on break point and saved three break points in the next set to even the set at 2-all. Murray broke to go up 4-2 with a backhand passing shot past Hewitt before the former World No. 1 broke right back with a forehand passing shot past Murray.
Hewitt saved two match points, hitting a 122 mph ace at 4-5 and a 119 mph ace at 5-6 to send the match to the deciding tie-break, where the eighteen-year-old finally succeeded in closing out the match. Murray broke Hewitt twice to take the first three points, and returned a backhand winner at 6-3 to seal the victory.
With the title-winning performance, Murray became the youngest player to win the Bay Area tournament since 1988, when 16-year-old Michael Chang won the title in San Francisco. He also became the first Brit the win the title since Greg Rusedski in 2001.
“It’s the biggest moment of my life in tennis so far,” said Murray. He joins a quartet of other distinguished teenager winners at this event – John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg, Michael Chang and Andre Agassi. Within a year of their wins here, all but Agassi had earned their first Grand Slam singles crown.
Murray's first appearance in an ATP final ended in a loss to World No. 1 Roger Federer in Bangkok last October. Hewitt captured the San Jose title four years ago in his last appearance, defeating Andre Agassi in the final. He fell to an 11-2 event record with the loss.
And in doubles action, John McEnroe completed his daunting return to the ATP Tour in familiar winning form, teaming up with Jonas Bjorkman on Sunday to beat a couple of former Stanford All-Americans 7-6 (2), 4-6, 10-7 in the finals of the SAP Open.
The match ended with a vintage piercing McEnroe backhand volley up the middle between Paul Goldstein and Jim Thomas. He was light on his feet all match long, smashing overheads, slicing serves and poaching for volleys.
When his volley ended the match, the 47-year-old McEnroe's face lit up and he embraced Bjorkman. A standing ovation from the crowd rained down on them and the crafty lefty, considered by many to be the finest doubles player in tour history, basked in victory yet again.
"I'm surprised that it went to the final tiebreaker, but the right team won," McEnroe said.
McEnroe has stayed in decent playing shape and his hands remain sharp as he plays often on the senior pro tennis circuit. "I felt like I had it in me, but I didn't know quite what was going to happen," said McEnroe, the oldest player to win an ATP title singles or doubles in the last 30 years.
It was McEnroe's 78th career doubles victory, and first ATP final since winning a doubles tournament in Paris with his brother Patrick in 1992.