September 29, 2014
When you’ve gone 14 months without winning a tournament it doesn’t matter when, where or how you finally break your barren run.
As it happened, this long-awaited triumph was born out of seemingly insurmountable adversity at the Shenzhen Open, in the form of five match points brilliantly saved, the turning point in a thrilling tie-break and indeed the match.
Perhaps such a dramatic victory, 5-7, 7-6, 6-1 over Tommy Robredo, will finally stir Murray to climb towards former heights, driven afresh by the sweet taste of success.
The Scot, who hadn’t won any titles since Wimbledon 2013, was 6-2 down in the key breaker. Something inside him changed, he dug deep and refused to be beaten. The brilliance returned and Murray saved four match points before faltering once more. For a final time, Robredo tried to seize victory, only to be denied. Then it was Murray’s turn to try to close out the set and twice he too failed, before at last he conjured the winner to end the breaker 11-9.
Robredo was pretty much finished from that point on and wilted visibly in the hot conditions. But despite his final-set dominance, Murray knew he had been fortunate to get that far at all.
Andy said: ‘Today was obviously an incredibly tough match, the conditions are so hard to play in. I got lucky at the end of the second set but I fought hard, tried my best and thankfully managed to turn it round.
‘Tommy had a great tournament and he probably deserved the match. He had opportunities in the second set but sometimes that happens in sport. I just tried to fight til the end.’
And the Brit did it without his mother. Judy Murray was on the other side of the world, rehearsing for the British TV show, “Strictly Come Dancing.” She took time out from rehearsals to follow the action and tweeted with a native, Scottish flavour: ‘True grit. Stoatir. X.’ Later Judy hinted at how much Murray’s long and disappointing run had hurt. ‘It’s been a tough time for him.’
To leave the scene of a tournament with the trophy and some new respect for his fighting spirit, which at times in the last year seemed to have deserted him, will give Murray fresh reason to smile and for all his fans to breathe a sigh of relief.
Although no one would want to rain on Andy’s parade, we must also place this title triumph in context, though. Murray didn’t have to play a single top twenty player in Shenzhen – Robredo is ranked 22. Beijing will provide a much sterner test against the big beasts of the sport.
Yet Murray is at least back on track and has fire in his belly. He desperately wants to make the World Tour Finals in London. This victory will move him a step closer to achieving that goal. If he makes those end-of-year finals, his ranking will surely improve – and ultimately his chances of winning another Slam.
Murray has finally won something without his former coach, Ivan Lendl. And even though his current coach, Amelie Mauresmo has yet to prove she can be a driving force in Murray’s career, they do at least have something to celebrate together at long last.
The big question is this: can they maintain the momentum?