An emotional Andy Murray claimed his first ATP Tour title for more than two-and-a-half years at the European Open in Antwerp.
In just his sixth singles tournament since returning from the hip resurfacing operation he underwent in January, Murray had significantly exceeded expectations by making it all the way to the final.
There he faced his old rival Stan Wawrinka, who was in the ascendancy for the vast majority of the match.
But Murray dug in superbly, saving eight of the 12 break points he faced, including several at crucial times, and battled to a 6-3 4-6 6-4 victory.
The last time he lifted silverware in singles came in Dubai in March 2017, so it was no surprise that the tears quickly flowed.
In an on-court interview broadcast by Amazon Prime, Murray said: “Obviously it means a lot, the last few years have been extremely difficult, both me and Stan have had a lot of injury problems the last couple of years.
Andy ******* Murray!!!!
— Jamie Murray (@jamie_murray) October 20, 2019
“It’s amazing to be back playing him in a final. I think it was a great match, Stan was playing unbelievable, hitting winners from all over the court.
“I just managed to hang in a bit at the end of the second set and the third set was extremely close again. I didn’t expect to be in this position so I’m very happy.
“This is one of the biggest wins that I’ve had after everything so I’m very proud.”
The sweetest of pick-ups 👌@stanwawrinka#EuropeanOpen2019pic.twitter.com/KG3g0rM7QN
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) October 20, 2019
It was fitting that these two men should be facing each other given it was their gruelling French Open semi-final two years ago that exacerbated physical issues for both.
Murray spent the next 18 months trying to find a solution to his hip problems that would enable him to live without pain, while Wawrinka underwent two knee operations.
The 34-year-old is further down the comeback trail than Murray, but it is only this season that he has really returned to something like his old form, with his ranking dropping outside 200 last summer.
It is now back up to 18, while Murray’s will leap more than 100 places to 127 on Monday.
Let's do this.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) October 20, 2019
The Scot was playing for a fourth day in a row having fought off weariness to defeat Ugo Humbert in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Wawrinka was a step up, though, and his heavy weight of shot immediately pushed Murray back well behind the baseline.
Murray saved two break points in the second game but not a third and, after the Scot was unable to take two chances of his own in the next game, Wawrinka held comfortably through the rest of the set.
Of all Murray’s many attributes, his sheer bloody-mindedness has probably won him more matches than any other, and that was much in evidence as he somehow took the second set.
He was on the ropes at 1-3 and two break points down but dug in and then got his reward as Wawrinka’s serve went off the boil and his level dipped, with Murray breaking back to 3-3.
Wawrinka had two more chances at 4-4 but again Murray fought off the danger and more shaky serving from the Swiss put him in trouble in the next game.
Murray was furious when, as he looked set to win a long rally at 30-30, an erroneous line call forced the point to be replayed, but he duly played two of his best points of the match to send it to a decider.
The moment @andy_murray won his 1st @atptour title in over 2 years #legend
— LTA (@the_LTA) October 20, 2019
Murray was twice a break down early in the third as well but both times hit back straight away and then saved two more break points at 4-4.
That left Wawrinka serving for the match and, although he led 40-15, Murray willed himself back into the game and took his first match point.
The 32-year-old is now expected to take a break until the Davis Cup finals next month while he waits for the birth of his third child.
Murray joked: “I’ll have three kids under four years old. I need to get on the road so we don’t get out of control. I’m excited for the third kid. My wife’s been a huge support for getting me back on the court and making me fight to keep playing.”
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