Andy Murray was looking to the future with unabashed optimism after one of the most remarkable achievements of his career.
Murray defeated his old rival Stan Wawrinka 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the European Open in Antwerp to claim his first ATP Tour singles title for more than two-and-a-half years.
The emotional moment came only nine months after Murray shed tears of a very different nature in Australia and admitted right hip problems could force him off court for good.
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’.
“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.”
On court, Murray declared this one of his biggest achievements, and no wonder.
Wawrinka feared for his own career not long ago after needing two knee operations but has slowly returned to the top of the game and his weight of shot looked like being too much for a weary Murray.
The Scot 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 seizing his chances when they came.
The 32-year-old, whose ranking will climb more than 100 places to 127, 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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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.
“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.”
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.
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.
An astonishing effort @andy_murray . So so proud of you!!!!— Leon Smith (@LeonSmith) October 20, 2019
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.
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.
Andy Murray expressed his surprise at reaching the European Open final in Antwerp on Saturday saying ‘I certainly didn’t expect it to come so soon.’
The three-time Grand Slam champion will play Stan Wawrinka in Sunday’s final after beating Ugo Humbert 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 to reach his first ATP final for two years.
Murray had career-saving hip surgery in January and thought his time at the top might be over.
Murray said: “Yeah, I mean, Stan’s (Wawrinka) a brilliant player. You know, we’ve played against each other and some some big matches in the past and big tournaments. He’s had his injury troubles as well in the last couple of years and done great to get back to the top of the game.
“It was actually my match with him at the French Open in 2017 where my hip problems really, really started. It was a tough five set match in the semis and I never recovered from that. So it’s cool to be back playing against him in a final and hopefully it’s a good one.”