ANDY Murray described his first clay-court victory as an “honour” as he ended a 39-year wait for a British title winner on the surface by taking the BMW Open in Munich.
The 27-year-old, playing in his first tournament since marrying long-term girlfriend Kim Sears last month, was pushed all the way by Philipp Kohlschreiber, but came through to win in just over three hours.
Murray was forced to wait for his maiden clay crown after rain ended hopes of the final being concluded on Sunday and home favourite Kohlschreiber made sure it was not plain sailing for the world No 3 before Murray eventually recorded a 7-6 (7-4), 5-7, 7-6 (7-4) win.
As he builds up to the French Open, Murray was pleased to break his duck on clay – almost 40 years since Buster Mottram took Britain’s last tour win on the dirt. “It was a really tough match, he served very close to the line and I was getting frustrated,” Murray said after collecting his 32nd career title.
“The rain made things really tough, but, as a Scot, I’m used to that. It’s been a hard couple of days, so I am very happy to have won, especially on clay. I didn’t realise I was the first Brit to win on clay for so long, so that’s obviously an honour.”
Resuming on Monday morning with Kohlschreiber, seeded fifth in Munich, holding a 3-2 lead, Murray fought back to take the first set on a tie-break, wrapping up the set with a fine cross-court backhand.
But Kohlschreiber, a two-time winner of the BMW Open whose fifth and last tour title came almost 12 months ago on clay in Dusseldorf, fought back in the second, the 31-year-old drawing level with the top-seeded Murray.
Much like their meeting in the third round of last year’s French Open, this contest was to go the distance as the pair traded service games in the decider, resulting in a final-set tie-break and taking the game over the three-hour mark.
Murray eventually pulled away from Kohlschreiber to seal victory.
The pair could meet again tomorrow in the Madrid Masters. If Kohlschreiber comes through his first-round match against Colombian qualifier Alejando Falla, he will take on second seed Murray.
That would give the world No 24 an early chance for revenge, but he was pleased to have run his opponent so close. yesterday.
“It obviously really hurts when you have given your all, but I am really grateful for the support I got here,” he said. “It’s too soon to think about the next tournament, but it showed we are at the same level and both of us went to our limits.”
Meanwhile, it was announced yesterday that the inaugural winner of this year’s Aegon Open Nottingham WTA event will be presented with the Elena Baltacha Trophy, named in memory of the former British No 1.
Baltacha died of liver cancer a year ago yesterday at the age of 30, having been diagnosed with the illness in January of that year – just two months after retiring from tennis and only weeks after marrying her long-time coach, Nino Severino.
Baltacha won her 11th and final ITF women’s circuit title at Nottingham in 2013, and the Lawn Tennis Association has marked the one-year anniversary of her death by announcing that a newly commissioned trophy bearing her name will be awarded to the winner of next month’s WTA tournament in the city.
The trophy is an art nouveau bowl in sterling silver, measuring 24 centimetres tall with a diameter of 26 centimetres.
Severino said: “The loss of our darling Bally is a heartbreak that will never go away. It’s very touching that the British tennis family is remembering her this way.
“We’re all working together to keep her legacy alive through the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis and getting more kids of all backgrounds playing tennis.”
Judy Murray, Great Britain’s Fed Cup captain, added: “This is a wonderful way to remember Bally. She was one of the best competitors I ever saw and had a lot of success at the Nottingham event. I know she would be thrilled with this.”
The Aegon Open Nottingham will host two tournaments, the women’s WTA event from 6-14 June, and the men’s ATP competition being staged from 20-27 June.