Andy Murray battles to first post-surgery win against Tommy Robredo

Andy Murray saves five match points before beating Tommy Robredo 5-7 7-6 (11-9) 6-1 to win the Shenzhen Open

andy murray
British No1 Andy Murray Photo: Marianne Bevis

Andy Murray’s decision to take a wild card into the first playing of the Shenzhen Open may have been driven by his desire to reach his seventh consecutive ATP World Tour Finals, but this could event could also lay to rest a different demon.

Since winning Olympic gold, his first Major at the US Open, and then last year claiming the Wimbledon title, Murray has failed to reach another final.

There was good reason for the drop off in his form and ranking. Chronic back problems forced Murray to undergo surgery last autumn, and while his return in Australia so soon after rehab was impressive—a quarter-final run stopped by Roger Federer in four sets—his results remained inconsistent.

In fairness, most of his losses were to top-flight players: Rafael Nadal in the French Open semis and Novak Djokovic in the Miami quarters is as tough as it gets. But at last he had reached a final on his return to a part of the world where he has found such success in the past. Murray missed the entire Asian swing last year, but prior to that, he had reached the final of the Shanghai Masters three times, winning it twice.

Victory, then, would not just lift him past Grigor Dimitrov into 10th in the Race to London, but would boost his confidence ahead of Beijing next week and then Shanghai—a points-rich fortnight that could turn his fortunes around.

Murray played the slight, elegant figure of 32-year-old Tommy Robredo, who was also in search of his first title in over a year, and his first on a hard court in seven years. As it happens, that one and only hard-court title came in Metz against Murray.

The Spaniard makes up for lack of physical power with placement, tactical smartness and variety of spin and pace off a crisp forehand and flexible single-handed backhand. A world No5 as long ago as 2006, he too had returned from surgery having missed much of 2012 following leg surgery, and then the end of 2013 with a wrist injury.

Now ranked 22, Robredo had notched up wins over Richard Gasquet, Marin Cilic and Novak Djokovic this year, and was now just seven matches shy of his 500th match win.

He showed all his class, too, to break Murray in the first game of the match, though the Briton helped his cause with a couple of double faults.

However, both men struggled with the heat, humidity and inconsistency, errors interspersing winners. So Murray broke back, and both fought off break points as they edged to 5-5. Robredo then found a sequence of great plays to break and served out with some astute kicking serves, 7-5.

Murray took an early advantage in the second as Robredo also made two double faults to concede a break in the sixth game, but the Spaniard took on the challenge against Murray’s second serves to break back and level at 4-4.

Robredo again dug deep to fight off two set points, one with a remarkable sprint to pick up a Murray drop-shot and make a winner down the line. It would go to a tie-break.

Again, fortunes swung back and forth, though Robredo looked to have the match won at 6-2. But four match-points came and went, and a fifth, as a drained Robredo missed his first serve time and again. Murray looked stronger and more focused than at any time in the match and it proved irresistible: Murray closed out the set, 11-9, after more than two hours of gruelling competition.

The odds were now strongly in Murray’s favour, undoubtedly with more energy in the tank as well as the momentum. He broke in the first game and Robredo could summon up little response, simply rooted to the spot with exhaustion.

It was not the conclusion that either man would have wished. Robredo was reduced to a shadow of the man who put up such resistance against the younger, stronger and fitter Murray but had the grace to finish the match rather than retire. Murray had merely to hit the ball away from Robredo, which he did with growing ease, and raced to his 29th title, his 23rd on hard courts, 6-1.

In the end, both buried their heads in their towels, both wept—it was that kind of emotional rollercoaster. Yet they still had to find the composure for trophy speeches. Robredo admitted it was “tough to accept when it’s so close… but I’ll just have to keep working to see if next time I can win the last point.”

Murray told of the punishing conditions, before adding: “I felt lucky at the end of the second set. He probably deserved to win the match today, but that sometimes happens in sport.”

Still he was not allowed to make his escape, instead prompted about whether his girlfriend [Kim Sears] would come with him next year: “We’ve been together a long time, and I love her very much… Maybe she will come next year: she’s never been to Asia. But she gives me so much support.”

The Chinese fans have always taken Murray to their hearts and he has had their unqualified support all week in Shenzhen. Now, it seems, they love him even more.

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