Andy Murray: "I don't think any of us expected this."

Double Olympic champion beats Stan Wawrinka to win the European Open in just his seventh singles tournament back after hip surgery

By Rory Jiwani

Just nine months after a career-saving hip operation, Andy Murray is a singles tournament winner once more.

Britain's double Olympic tennis champion and three-time Grand Slam winner came from a set down to beat old rival Stan Wawrinka to claim the European Open in his seventh singles tournament back from surgery.

After dropping the first set, Murray fought back to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 before crying into his sweatband on his chair as the Antwerp crowd cheered.

When he had regained his composure, the Scot thanked his coaches and his family on court:

"These last two years have been extremely difficult. We've been through some very tough times together but we got through it. And to win another tournament, I don't think any of us expected this." - Andy Murray after his European Open victory

An incredible comeback

A year after winning his second Wimbledon title and retaining his Olympic crown at Rio 2016, Murray was suffering badly with a recurring hip problem.

After rest had failed to solve the problem, he opted to undergo surgery at the start of 2018.

But the issue refused to go away and ahead of the 2019 Australian Open, he announced that he had been in pain for a "long time" and that retirement was an option.

After his first round defeat to Roberto Bautista Agut in Melbourne, and despite him saying he would consider a second hip operation to prolong his career, tournament organisers put together a tear-jerker of a video to say farewell to the twice Wimbledon champion.

Following the example of London 2012 doubles gold medallist Bob Bryan, Murray had what is known as a 'Birmingham hip' operation where both where both the 'ball' head of the femur and the 'socket' hip joint are resurfaced with metal.

By March, Murray revealed that he was pain-free and made his return to professional tennis in June at Queen's Club playing doubles with Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez.

Against all expectations, the pair went on to win the tournament with the 32-year-old reporting that his hip "felt great".

Feliciano Lopez and Andy Murray celebrate their 2019 Queen's Club men's doubles title

Murray decided not to rush his return to singles action, contesting the men's doubles and mixed doubles at Wimbledon.

His partnership with 24-time Grand Slam winner and four-time Olympic gold medallist Serena Williams made the headlines, but 'MurRena' went out in the third round to top seeds Nicole Melichar and Bruno Soares.

Serena Williams and Andy Murray chat during the changeover in the mixed doubles at Wimbledon

Singles return

Murray made his singles comeback at the Cincinnati Masters, going down in straight sets to London 2012 doubles bronze medallist Richard Gasquet.

After he and Lopez went out to brother Jamie and Neal Skupski in the doubles quarter-finals, the former world number one decided to focus fully on singles.

Another first-round exit at the ATP 250 Winston-Salem Open, to Tennys Sandgren, saw him drop to Challenger to gain some match practice but he only won twice before falling to Matteo Viola.

Murray was gradually rediscovering his touch, exacting revenge on Sandgren before falling to talented Australian youngster Alex De Minaur in Zhuhai.

Staying in China, he got the better of top-20 player Matteo Berrettini before losing in straight sets to this year's Indian Wells champion Dominic Thiem.

And in Shanghai, he showed his competitive juices were still flowing in a bad-tempered three-set defeat to Fabio Fognini where he was aggrieved at the Italian shouting out during a point.

Then came the European Open in Antwerp, Belgium where he beat home favourite Kimmer Coppejans and Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas in straight sets before coming through a tight three-setter against Marius Copil of Romania to reach the semi-finals.

Murray fought back from a set down against France's Ugo Humbert to reach the final where he would face Wawrinka, another three-time Grand Slam winner who has suffered injury problems of late.

The Swiss broke Murray instantly to go 2-0 up and the rest of the set went with serve as he took it 6-3.

Wawrinka started the second set superbly, breaking to lead 2-1, but Murray broke back to level at 3-3 and managed to break again to claim it 6-4 and force a decider.

With a combined age of 66, the pair were pushing their bodies to the limit.

Wawrinka broke again early in the second set but was unable to consolidate it as Murray hit back.

And with Wawrinka serving to stay in the match at 4-5, the 34-year-old's nerve failed him as he netted a backhand before going long with a forehand to hand Murray his first singles title since May 2017.

The pair shared a warm embrace at the net and, during the post-match presentation, Wawrinka said, "To see you back at that level after the surgery is really amazing. We're all really happy to see you back at that level.

"You're an amazing champion and you deserve that."

Murray was equally magnanimous saying, "Stan was playing unbelievable. 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 at all, so I'm very happy."

Murray has some family business to attend to next with wife Kim expecting their third child any day.

He is expected to take some time off before playing for Great Britain in the Davis Cup Finals being held in Madrid from 18-24 November.


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