By Tom Walker | Head of Sport
Andy Murray marked his return to tennis following surgery earlier on in the year by beating Stan Wawrinka for the European Open title.
It was an impressive display from the Scotsman, coming back from a set and a break down to win in Antwerp. Post-match, a very emotional Murray described the victory as one of the biggest in his career.
The victory saw him rise 116 places in the rankings to 127. Although it may still be a large margin from where his ability dictates he should be, the constant injury problems over the last few years means it is still a remarkable achievement.
The last nine months prior to this point had been a rough one for Murray. During the Australian Open at the start of the year, he announced the tournament could be his final one after consistent hip problems.
However, following a successful hip resurfacing operation in January, and 17 matches later, the three-time Grand Slam Champion was back to winning titles almost two years after his last one.
His return to competitive tennis began in June, where both he and partner Feliciano Lopez won the Queen’s doubles title in front of a home crowd. Following this triumph, Murray played his first singles match of the year against Richard Gasquet in the Cincinnati Open.
Despite losing, Murray showed flashes of his brilliant best but clearly lacked the fitness required, which he admitted was to be expected after only playing a handful of matches in the previous 18 months. However, the tie did hold some significance as it made the Scotsman the first player to resume their career after a hip resurfacing operation.
Following that was the China Open in October, where Murray reached the Quarter Finals, only to be stopped by Austrian Dominic Thiem – who currently ranks fifth in the ATP rankings.
Most significantly, the European Open was where tennis fans started to see Murray really get back into his stride, only dropping two sets on the road to the final where he would meet the fourth seed Stan Wawrinka.
Despite losing the first set 6-3, Murray had played some impressive tennis. However, things looked bleak for him at the start of the second set, as his Swiss opponent hit four winners to win Murray’s serve for a set and a break lead.
But the Scotsman found a second wind to recover from a challenging start to save two break points and win three consecutive games before going on to take the set. The third and final set was a tight encounter, but after retaining his own serve to make it 5-4, Murray took Wawrinka’s service game to deuce then match point, before a Wawrinka forehand flew past Murray meaning the Scot secured his first singles title since surgery.
It was only nine months ago that Murray’s career looked on the brink of ending. Nevertheless, the determination and hard work that has often defined his playing style has brought him back from the brink. Could he win one more title before he calls it a day on his playing career?