More than a year of anguish and physical pain were put aside as an emotional Andy Murray ended his long wait for a title. In beating Tommy Robredo 5-7, 7-6, 6-1 in a remarkable final of the Shenzhen Open in China, Murray won his first tournament since his Wimbledon triumph more than 14 months ago.
The world No 11 did so in typically dramatic fashion, saving five match points in the second set tie-break before outlasting his opponent in the high heat and humidity. In the final stages, after two and a half hours of gruelling tennis, Robredo could barely walk, let alone run.
At the trophy ceremony after the match Murray thanked his courtside entourage - Dani Vallverdu, Matt Little and Mark Bender - and in particular his girlfriend, Kim Sears, who is not in China but knows more than anyone how hard he has worked to rediscover his best form following the back surgery he underwent a year ago.
His voice cracking with emotion, Murray said: “I want to thank my family and friends back home and especially my girlfriend. She’s supported me a lot through this week. It’s been a very tough week for me.”
Asked if she would accompany him if he returned to Shenzhen next year, Murray said: “If she’s still together with me, if she still wants to be my girlfriend. We’ve been together a long time. I love her very much. She’s supported me through everything.”
Murray’s Shenzhen prize money of $106,970 (about £66,000) and his 250 ranking points are paltry in comparison with what he won at Wimbledon last summer - £1.6m and 2,000 points - but the Scot will hope that this will be the start of a resurgence.
When Murray triumphed in the same week three years ago he went on to win three tournaments in succession in Asia, where he has claimed eight of his 29 career titles. He is likely to play his first match at the China Open in Beijing against Jerzy Janowicz on Wednesday. He will then compete at next week’s Shanghai Masters.
For the second day in a row he started poorly, opening with two successive double faults to drop serve in the first game. The break was soon retrieved, but Murray lost the first set after dropping serve with a loose game at 5-5.
Robredo has won 11 of his 12 titles on clay, his only hard-court triumph having been in Metz seven years ago, when he beat Murray in the final. The 32-year-old Spaniard might have been expecting history to repeat itself when he led 6-2 in the second set tie-break, but Murray held firm and levelled the match. The third set was a procession as Robredo quickly faded.
Murray said: “The conditions were so hard to play in. I got lucky basically at the end of the second set. I fought hard. I tried my best and thankfully managed to turn it around. But Tommy had a great tournament. He probably deserved to win the match today.”
The victory took Murray a step closer towards securing his place in the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London, where the eight-man field comprises those players who have earned the most ranking points in 2014. Murray has moved up one place in the list to No 10.
Murray’s brother, Jamie, and his Australian partner, John Peers, were beaten 3-6, 7-6, 10-5 by Leander Paes and Marcin Matkowski in the doubles final in Kuala Lumpur, where Kei Nishikori beat Julien Benneteau 7-6, 6-4 to win the singles crown. Britain’s Heather Watson suffered her fourth successive first-round defeat when she was beaten 6-3, 6-1 by Venus Williams in Beijing.
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