The men’s and women’s U.S. Open champions who both won in thrillers—Andy Murray and Serena Williams—were chosen as the United States Sports Academy’s September Athletes of the Month.

Murray had to dig deep for stamina and mental strength to outlast Novak Djokovic in a nail-biting, five-set U.S. Open final to win 7-6 (10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2. The 25-year-old Scot almost let a two-set lead against Djokovic evaporate, before prevailing in a fifth set. He became the first British male tennis player to win a grand slam title since 1936, after going 0-4 in his previous Grand Slam final appearances.

Andy Murray

Meanwhile, Williams was two points shy of defeat in the U.S. Open, but suddenly regained her composure and her strokes to rally and win the last four games and beat Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 2-6, 7-5. The win was Williams’ fourth U.S. Open championship and 15th overall Grand Slam title. With the win Williams became the first women’s tennis player to cross $40 million in tournament earnings. She also joins Martina Navratilova as the only women over 30 years old to win the U.S. Open and Wimbledon in the same season in the Open era since 1968.

The public is invited to participate in the worldwide Athlete of the Month nomination and ballot voting processes. Visit the Academy website at to submit your nominations each month, and then return to the website during the first two weeks of each month to vote on the male and female Athletes of the Month. The votes along with the Academy’s selection committee choose the winners and they are announced on the Academy’s website and in the online edition of The Sport Update.

Finishing second in the men’s category was the world’s fastest man—Usain Bolt. After becoming the first sprinter to successfully defend his 100- and 200-meter Olympic titles, the Jamaican finished a fantastic 2012 season with a win in Brussels, Belgium. The 26-year-old Bolt clocked 9.86 seconds in the 100 meters to win his first ever Diamond League title.

The runner up to Williams on the women’s ballot was WNBA Most Valuable Player Tina Charles. She won her third-straight rebounding title with 10.5 rebounds per game, setting league records for single-season rebounds and rebounding average. Charles, who averaged 18 points per game, also joins two other players in league history to average at least 15 points per game, while shooting 50 percent or better from the field.

Serena Williams

Third place winners for September were Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, who’s rookie debut made him the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Sweden’s Lisa Norden finished third for winning her second consecutive gold medal in the the 2012 International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Triathlon Series.

The winners of the Academy’s male and female Athletes of the Month will be considered as candidates for the 2012 Athlete of the Year ballot. In December 2012, the Academy will name the male and female Athlete of the Year for the 28th consecutive year. The recipients of this prestigious award are selected annually through worldwide online balloting hosted by the Academy in conjunction with USA Today and NBC Sports.

In 2011, the Male Athlete of the Year was No. 1-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic of Serbia and the Female Athlete of the Year was No. 1-ranked golfer Yani Tseng of Taiwan. Both of them dominated 2011’s ballot that drew as many as 50,000 votes a day from across the world.