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Andy Murray breaks down in tears after winning first singles title on comeback trail

Simon Briggs
Andy Murray salutes the crowd after winning his first singles tournament since Dubai 31 months ago - AP

Perhaps they will make a movie of it one day. The working title could be “Miracle in Schijnpoortweg”. Because that’s the unprepossessing suburb of Antwerp where Andy Murray sealed his 46th – and arguably most remarkable – ATP title.

Within a few seconds of his 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory over old rival Stan Wawrinka, Murray was burying his face in a towel to hide the tears. A couple of minutes later, he was holding the European Open trophy – a stylised sculpture of a serving tennis player which, for some reason, has no head.

The amazing thing is that, until very recently, Murray had no functioning right hip. Which is how the Australian Open came to commission that infamous “Farewell Andy” video in January.

As the British doubles specialist Joe Salisbury put it on Sunday, “Everyone thought he was gonna be retired at the start of the year.”

It is less than seven months since Murray returned to a tennis court with his new metal hip, gingerly patting a ball against a practice wall in his home village of Oxshott. Around four months since he abruptly announced that he would be playing doubles at Queen’s. And less than two months since he went to Mallorca for a second-tier singles tournament where he was comfortably beaten by Matteo Viola, the world No 240.

Andy Murray celebrates his first tournament win since major surgery on his hip Credit: AP

Sunday's win was a fine comeback on its own terms, given that Wawrinka dominated the first 90 minutes and stood within five points of a straight-sets victory. But it is the bigger picture that most of us are boggling at. Having only played 28 top-tier matches in the last two seasons, Murray had no right to string together five wins in six days – especially when he came into the tournament with a grumbling right elbow that limited his effectiveness on serve throughout. Both the quarter-final and semi-final had also gone to a deciding set, which left him short of explosiveness on Sunday.

Later, as Murray addressed the contest itself in the interview room, he sounded almost bemused by his own achievement. “I felt just a bit sore, a bit heavy in the legs. I don't know if that showed in terms of the way that I played until the end of the second set. I was getting bullied around the court and Stan was hitting a bunch of winners. 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.”

While Murray is always his own harshest critic, everybody watching would have looked at the last few games and recognised a near approximation of the man who won three grand-slam titles, two Olympic golds and a Davis Cup. Yes, Wawrinka was the more aggressive player, but Murray used the net well and his scudding crosscourt backhand was on point all week.

Above all, he managed to find the big serves – including one which clocked 133mph – when he most needed them. The trophy might not have its head screwed on but Murray most assuredly does.

Once Murray had composed himself enough to give his on-court interview, he told the satisfied fans in a sell-out crowd that it is “one of the biggest wins I have had, after everything. It means a lot [because] the last few years were extremely difficult. Both me and Stan have had a lot of injury problems and it’s amazing to be back playing in a final with him.”

Later, in the interview room, he explained that “I have had a few messages – more than I have had in the last few months, that's for sure. I will need to get my responses done but I have got a fantasy basketball draft at 9pm tonight. Maybe the replies to the messages will have to wait.

Andy Murray wins his first title since March 2017 by defeating Stan Wawrinka in Antwerp Credit: Francisco Seco/AP

“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 [a month ago] 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.

“I wasn’t thinking ‘I am going to win tournaments’ or ‘I am going to beat guys like Stan and [world No 13 Matteo] Berrettini [whom he overcame in Beijing three weeks ago].’ So this has come as a surprise to me and my team.”

Murray’s victory carries him up to No 127, but he will still need to use his protected ranking in January’s Australian Open. This was his last solo tournament of the year. His only remaining commitment is the inaugural Davis Cup finals week in Madrid, starting on Nov 18. In the meantime, he will be helping around the house at home, where his wife Kim is heavily pregnant.

“We are going to have a third baby, which makes it three kids under the age of four,” Murray said. “While I’ve been off tennis for the last couple of years, my family has got bigger. So maybe I need to get back on the road.”