ANTWERP, Belgium (AP) — Andy Murray claimed his first ATP tour title for more than 2 1/2 years at the European Open on Sunday in only his sixth singles tournament since returning from hip surgery in January.
The 32-year-old Murray rallied to beat fellow three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the final.
The last time he lifted silverware in singles came in Dubai in March 2017, so it was no surprise that the tears quickly flowed for the British player.
“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,” Murray said in an on-court interview broadcast by Amazon Prime.
“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.”
It was their grueling French Open semifinal two years ago that exacerbated physical issues for both players. 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.
After undergoing hip resurfacing surgery, Murray returned to the court in June playing doubles — including at Wimbledon — before moving back to singles in August.
The 34-year-old Wawrinka was looking for his first ATP title since the 2017 Geneva Open.
The crucial break of serve in the first set came in the second game, with Murray saving two break points but not a third, and his Swiss opponent served it out 6-3.
Murray looked in deep trouble when Wawrinka broke again in the third game of the second set, and the Scot had to save more break points to avoid losing a fourth game in a row.
But, having dug in, he 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 it was Murray who then took his first set point to clinch it 6-4 and level the match.
Wawrinka stepped up again early in the third set and was twice a break ahead but once more Murray dug in, hitting back immediately both times.
Murray saved two more break points at 4-4 to leave Wawrinka serving to stay in the match. When Wawrinka blazed a forehand well off target on the first match point, it was the former top-ranked Murray celebrating a remarkable comeback.
Murray is now expected to take a break until the Davis Cup finals next month while he waits for the birth of his third child.
“I’ll have three kids under four years old. I need to get on the road so we don’t get out of control,” Murray joked. “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.”