ANDY Murray was overcome with emotion after ending a burdensome title drought that stretched all the way back to his glorious Wimbledon triumph.
Mum Judy wept along too, taking time out from Strictly Come Dancing commitments to watch on television as Murray came back from the brink of defeat to beat Tommy Robredo in the final of the Shenzhen Open.
Two-times grand slam winner Murray broke down in tears after a 5-7, 7-6 (11/9), 6-1 victory, a success that was just the tonic for the Scot, who entered the modest ATP 250 tier event because of his impatience to experience the thrill of winning a tournament.
He was also aiming to strengthen his prospects of qualifying for the end-of-year Tour Finals, and Murray is now closing in rapidly on a place among the elite eight players who will convene at the O2 in November, climbing to 10th place in the Race to London.
The 27-year-old faced five match points in a second-set tie-break, four of them in succession from 6-2 behind, but saved them with some of his best tennis, and then breezed through the decider as Robredo struggled physically.
“Today was obviously an incredibly tough match, the conditions are so hard to play in,” said Murray. “I got lucky, basically, at the end of the second set. I fought hard, tried my best and thankfully managed to turn it round. Tommy had a great tournament. He probably deserved to win the match today. He had the opportunities in the second set, but I just tried to fight till the end.”
Mother Judy, so often at courtside for Murray’s big matches, invoked a little Scottish dialect to hail her braveheart son as she wrote on Twitter: “True grit. Stoatir. X”
She admitted she was crying, adding: “It’s been a tough time for him.”
Victory gave Murray his first silverware since parting ways with Ivan Lendl before the French Open, undergoing a back operation and then pairing up with French coach Amelie
Mauresmo in June. Theirs has been a combination which has come under a close scrutiny which should be eased by this achievement.
Murray acknowledged the support from within his entourage and family. He added: “I want to thank my team and I want to thank my friends and family back home and especially my girlfriend [Kim Sears]. She’s supported me a lot through this week.”
Spaniard Robredo could barely walk to the net come the end of a gruelling contest played in intense heat in southern China, with Murray’s remarkably high levels of fitness being richly rewarded.
Murray had capped a glorious 12 months with his Wimbledon triumph in July 2013, which came in the wake of Olympic gold and the US Open title.
Following his back surgery he returned to the tour for the new season and struggled for several months to come close to the form that enabled him to end Britain’s 77-year wait for a men’s singles champion at the All England Club – an accomplishment he could unquestionably have dined out on without lifting a tennis racket again.
However, Murray firmly believes there is more to come and a semi-final run at the French Open hinted at him running into peak form in time for his Wimbledon defence. However, a shock quarter-final thrashing by Grigor Dimitrov showed that his recovery was far from complete.
Yesterday’s Shenzhen title match was Murray’s first final of the year, and it looked like being anticlimactic for his followers when Robredo moved so close to the winning line. Yet the result told a wholly different story, the manner of victory offering fresh reassurance that Murray is lacking nothing in determination to get back to the top of the sport.
So high are the expectations which have surrounded Murray for years that some may have felt that this year’s struggles have left him with too much to do when it comes to challenging at the top again. However, reaching the quarter-finals in three of this year’s grand slam events, as well as the last four of the French Open, was – on reflection – no mean achievement in the wake of back surgery.
Next week he will be in Beijing, for the China Open, before competing in Masters 1000 events in Shanghai and Paris in October, where big points, big money and big-name opponents come into play, just the sort of challenge he relishes.
Elsewhere, Japan’s Kei Nishikori followed up his US Open final appearance by winning the Malaysian Open yesterday.
The 24-year-old, who has been having a breakout year, claimed his sixth career title with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 victory over Julien Benneteau of France.
Nishikori’s second title on Asian soil after the Japan Open in 2012 will strengthen his chances for a shot at the ATP World Tour finals. He is currently sixth in the standings.
Benneteau’s wait to win an ATP World Tour event goes on as he now has a 0-10 record in finals and has lost the last three Malaysia Open finals.
Andy’s brother Jamie and his Australian partner John Peers just failed to make it a double Murray celebration at the weekend when they lost the final of the men’s doubles competition Leander Paes and Marcin Matkowski, who prevailed 3-6 7-6 (7/5) 10-5.
Meanwhile, reigning French Open champion Maria Sharapova, former world No 1 Venus Williams and Australian Samantha Stosur sailed into the second round of the China Open with straight-sets victories. Fourth seeded Sharapova committed six double faults compared to two by Kaia Kanepi but downed the Estonian 6-4, 6-1 in 90 minutes.
Sixteenth seeded Williams shrugged off a slow start to overcome Great Britain’s Heather Watson 6-3, 6-1 in their first encounter and praised Watson’s tennis despite the eventual ease of the American’s win.