Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

One replaced hip later: Andy Murray wins first title since injury comeback

Andy Murray arrived in China a little over a month ago with the unpretentious objective of winning eight matches in four weeks. The former world number one has since trawled two continents, smashing his meek objectives in the process. In a tear-jerking Antwerp final, Murray overturned a one-set deficit to win his first singles title since February 2017. Nine months after the Glaswegian ace was prematurely retired by the Australian Open press-pack, Andy Murray battled through a week of physical scrutiny to capture the European Open and become the second British winner of the competition, following Kyle Edmund.

“This is one of the biggest wins I’ve had, after everything,”

– Andy Murray

Tearful following his 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Stan Wawrinka in Sunday’s final, Murray immediately reflected upon an “incredible” match against the Swiss world number 18. “It means a lot,” Murray said during his on-court interview, “(the) last few years have been extremely difficult. Me and Stan have had a lot of injury problems,” adding that it was “amazing to be back playing against (Wawrinka) in a final like that.” 

Murray’s post-match analysis was befitting of the honest approach that has defined the Scotsman’s professional career. In a first set dominated by his Swiss counterpart, Murray struggled to establish an early foothold in the match. A succession of winners from both sides of the baseline earned Wawrinka the first set, a lead the former-third seed thoroughly deserved. 

In the second set, the match could easily have passed Murray by. Trailing 6-3, 3-1 and down by two break points in the second set, Murray once again displayed the grit that once took him to Wimbledon deliverance and Olympic gold. Seven points in a row went Murray’s way, courtesy of dogged defensive scrambling, and wild adventures to the net.

In a clutch, wheezing games deep into the second set, it was Murray’s defensive play that won the battle. Time, after time, Murray would tip the ball beyond Wawrinka’s clutching grasp against the conventional wit and wisdom that would usually define a player’s career in the wake of hip resurfacing. Murray has scantly paid attention to convention, and he has never been defined by expectation: the former-British number one went further than even he could have expected in Antwerp.

In the third set, as pressure mounted on both sides of the net, both Wawrinka and Murray’s serves crumbled. Firing a flurry of winners to break Murray’s serve twice, Wawrinka had the tournament in his grasp, but the Swiss veteran was never able to break Murray’s resolve. With Wawrinka on the brink of a third break in the set, Murray held firm at 4-3, taking what would turn out to be an unassailable lead.

Sir Murray, for services to tennis and charity, works hard but plays even harder.

Screaming into his fists minutes from the match’s finale, it seemed to hit Murray that he was on the brink of a new frontier – and it was his final embellishments that typify Murray’s 2019 comeback story. Gritty, determined, unrelenting, and unapologetic: Murray, since making his singles return in Cincinnati this summer, has shown flashes of his peak; in Antwerp, he reignited a career many thought was resigned to history.

“This is one of the biggest wins I’ve had, after everything,” Murray told the Antwerp crowd. Only when you appreciate Murray’s underserving fall from grace can you understand the magnitude of his return: ranked 243rd in the world, and only seven tournaments into his injury return, Murray won the 46th title of his career in Antwerp; it was vintage Murray. I do not doubt that history will be kind to Andy Murray. The first Briton to win a tennis raffle, let alone a home Grand Slam, in almost a century, Murray embodies the traits befitting of a title that has been desecrated in recent years.

Sir Murray, for services to tennis and charity, works hard but plays even harderNot only champion in Antwerp, but a champion of hearts and minds around the world: Andy Murray is a generational icon, and his story is not over yet. Our self-berating Scotsman is back in the fold, and I couldn’t be happier for him if I tried.

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