Andy Murray declared himself a lot more optimistic about his future in tennis after winning his first singles title for more than two-and-a-half years.
Murray defeated his old rival Stan Wawrinka 3-6 6-4 6-4 in the final of the European Open in Antwerp only nine months after breaking down in tears in Australia and admitting right hip problems could end his career.
Instead, he underwent hip resurfacing surgery at the end of January and the operation, something no singles player had attempted to come back from, has been such a success that he is now competing with and beating some of the best players in the world.
Murray returned to the singles court in August, winning his first match last month in China, and the pace of his improvement has taken everyone by surprise, not least the man himself.
He said in quotes reported by The Telegraph: “I need to now start talking more about my future and I am certainly a lot more optimistic now.
“When I spoke to my team before the trip to Asia, I was like, ‘What are the goals here?’ And I was like, ‘I just want to be competitive. I want to feel that when I am on the court I am not getting smashed by guys’.
— jamie delgado (@DelgadoJamie) October 20, 2019
“I wasn’t thinking, ‘I am going to win tournaments’ or ‘I am going to beat guys like Stan and (Matteo) Berrettini’. So this has come as a surprise to me and my team.”
The last time he lifted silverware in singles came in Dubai in March 2017, so it was understandable that the tears quickly flowed once Wawrinka’s final shot had flown well out of court.
Speaking in his on-court interview, Murray said: “This is one of the biggest wins that I’ve had after everything so I’m very proud.”
Andy ******* Murray!!!!
— Jamie Murray (@jamie_murray) 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.
Wawrinka underwent two knee operations and feared that he too might not make it back.
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.
— Matt (@MattLittleSandC) October 20, 2019
It is now back up to 18, while Murray’s will leap more than 100 places to 127 on Monday.
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 and Wawrinka’s heavy weight of shot immediately pushed Murray back well behind the baseline.
He dropped serve in the second game and was staring at defeat down a set and with Wawrinka holding break points to lead by 4-1 and a double break in the second.
But Murray did what he does arguably better than anyone, digging in to get back on level terms and then seizing his chance in the 10th game.
The third set was a similar story, with Wawrinka looking set to pull away only for Murray to hang on, and the trophy was his reward.
Murray seemed a little stunned by the outcome, saying: “I kept putting returns in play and trying to get one more ball back. Stan easily could have won that match. It wasn’t like I was deserving of the win. I didn’t feel ready to win – but it happened.”
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.”