It was a moment that demonstrated Andy Murray's joy at what had been a perfect week. Serving at 4-3 and 40-0 in the deciding set of the Aegon Championships final here yesterday, the 24-year-old Scot eschewed the opportunity to win the game with a routine volley and instead flicked an inch-perfect, through-the-legs half-volley that landed beyond the reach of an aghast Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Murray, who went on to win a hugely entertaining match 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 to take the title for a second time, is not usually the sort to showboat but could not resist the chance to revel in his talent. Having totally outplayed Andy Roddick in Saturday's semi-finals, the world No 4 was given a much sterner test by the Frenchman but held firm and went on to play some sparkling tennis to claim the 17th title of his career.
This was Murray's first tournament victory since the Shanghai Masters eight months ago. The dark days of February and March, when he failed to win a set in four successive matches following his run to the final of the Australian Open, appear well and truly behind him. Having just enjoyed the best clay-court season of his career, culminating in his first appearance in the semi-finals of the French Open, the Scot has quickly found his form on grass and will go to Wimbledon, which begins in six days' time, full of confidence.
Even the fickle June sunshine came out to celebrate Murray's achievement. The final had been held over for 24 hours after rain had washed out Sunday's play and, although the match began under an overcast sky, it finished in glorious sunshine.
The stadium was full, fans having begun queuing at 2am to take advantage of the offer of £10 tickets to watch the country's best player for three-quarters of a century in his final warm-up before Wimbledon. After becoming the first Briton to win here for 71 years when he claimed the title two years ago, Murray is now the first of his countrymen to win this title more than once since Sir Francis Gordon Lowe, a second baronet and the son of an MP, triumphed in 1913, 1914 and 1925.
"When you look at the names of the people on the trophy, it's not an easy tournament to win," Murray said. "This is probably the strongest tournament on the tour for one of this size, so it means a lot. It's always been great preparation for guys going into Wimbledon. If you do well here, it shows you're playing good tennis on the grass."
He added: "I'm going to Wimbledon with the feeling that I'm going to win the tournament. I don't think you can go in with any other attitude. I feel like I'm playing good tennis."
Tsonga, who had beaten Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals, was a worthy opponent. The 26-year-old Frenchman's big serve, sound volleys, aggressive style and great athleticism make him a fine player on grass. The world No 19 took the game to Murray, attacking his second serve, charging into the net and diving to hit volleys when his opponent tried to pass him.
For a set and a half it seemed that the Muhammad Ali lookalike from Le Mans might be strong enough to deliver knockout blows. He made the first break in the sixth game, surprising Murray by upping the pace of his returns, and saved two break points when serving at 5-3 before taking the set.
When he served at 3-4 in the second set Tsonga saved four more break points, one of them with a mishit, after which he kissed his racket in relief. It seemed this was not going to be Murray's day, but the Scot's luck turned when he served at 5-5 and 30-40. Tsonga hit a big forehand return and the ball hit the top of the net, jumped into the air and landed just on his side. Murray puffed out his cheeks in relief and went on to hold serve.
A sign of the Scot's increasing confidence came in the next game. Having overrun the ball, from behind the baseline he hit a through-the-legs forehand –a foretaste of what was to come – which looked certain to take the point until Tsonga dived to hit a volley winner. The momentum was with Murray, however, and he took the tie-break 7-2 to level.
Tsonga held on until the fifth game of the decider, when Murray broke with a big cross-court forehand. The Frenchman could see the end was nigh when the Scot played his remarkable trick shot three games later. "You don't get a chance to do that very often," Murray said. "It just came off. I was up 40-0 in the game. I probably wouldn't have gone for it if it was 30-30."
Tsonga said later: "At first I was pissed off. Then I said: 'Good play'." When informed about Tsonga's reaction, Murray responded: "I was the one that was more frustrated than him in the first two sets because he was coming up with some unbelievable shots."
At 5-4 Murray served out for the match, sealing victory with a smash and the broadest of smiles. A week that had begun with concerns about an ankle injury – for which he is still having treatment – had ended in perfect fashion.
Murray said he had been "very close" to pulling out after his first match with his ankle. "I didn't feel that comfortable on the court. The best thing for my ankle would have been to take the week off in terms of getting it better, but you have to look as well at what the best preparation for Wimbledon would be. Everyone thinks at this period of the year it's so stressful, you can't play, you can't enjoy yourself, you can't do anything, but I felt like I expressed myself on the court. I enjoyed it."
* Adam Helfant is stepping down as head of the ATP when his three-year contract expires at the end of the year. The American, president and executive chairman since 2009, said it was time to "consider other opportunities".
A good omen?
Andy Murray is the eighth man to win two or more singles titles at Queen's Club in the Open era. The other seven were all world No 1s and all bar Roddick and Lendl won Wimbledon.
Four Queen's Club titles
Boris Becker (1985, 1987, 1988, 1996)
Lleyton Hewitt (2000, 2001, 2002, 2006)
Andy Roddick (2003, 2004, 2005, 2007)
John McEnroe (1979, 1980, 1981, 1984)
Jimmy Connors (1972, 1982, 1983)
Ivan Lendl (1989, 1990)
Pete Sampras (1995, 1999)
Andy Murray (2009, 2011)