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Andy Murray’s Great Week In Antwerp ATP Tennis • Wins Title With New Titanium Hip

By Alix Ramsay

A long, long time ago, back when Andy Murray had wild hair, was still trying to grow a beard and was spoken for but was many, many moons away from marriage, his mum had the cleanest bathroom in Scotland.

It was 2006, he was on his own in San Jose and his then girlfriend (now wife) Kim was playing hooky from college to watch her fella play some tennis. Muzz had no coach with him that week (it was half term and Mark Petchey was back at home on dad duty) and, as the world No.60, no one was expecting that much from the young lad. And he won the title, beating Lleyton Hewitt in the final.

Back in Scotland, his mum could not bear to watch, she was that nervous. As the games ticked by and her youngest edged closer to the trophy, she needed something to distract her. So she did a bit of housework. By the time he was hoisting the trophy above his head, her bathroom was spotless and so shiny it could be seen from space. All the dreams and all the work that Muzz had had and done for the past 15 years (he was only 18 at the time) had come together that afternoon in California – Andy Murray was a champion.

Now, 46 titles later, Judy Murray is still celebrating. On Sunday her son again did the unimaginable by beating Stan Wawrinka to win the Antwerp title. He was a set and a break down, he was five points from defeat but the Muzz clung on for dear life, as only he can, and he got his reward 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.

For a man who was the world No.1 a couple of years ago, who has three grand slam titles, two Olympic gold medals and a Davis Cup trophy in his collection, a 250 title looks like small beer but just nine months ago, Muzz could barely move.

Just days after hip resurfacing surgery, he was beginning the long, laborious process of rehab. There were times in those early days when he would try and do what the medics and the physios had told him but his body stubbornly refused to cooperate. He told his right leg to move and his right leg told him to get stuffed. A surgeon had only recently ripped his hip apart, chopped out all the knackered bits and replaced them with titanium. Of course his leg wasn’t going to move.

But Muzz persisted. Muzz always persists. If he looks stubborn and grumpy on court, it is as nothing compared to how stubborn and grumpy he is with himself when faced with a challenge. The operation had promised him a pain free existence – and that was great – but it had also given him a fraction of a chance of playing again. That was all he needed and now, nine short months later, he is back on the winner’s podium. You could not make this stuff up…well, you couldn’t unless you knew Andy Murray.

As he told the Daily Telegraph: “I spoke to the ice hockey player Ed Jovanovski, who had the operation and got back to playing in the NHL in eight months. He told me that the rehab was hard but that his hip was brilliant at the end of it and the reason why he didn’t continue playing for longer is that he was 39. So I knew that if I did it properly, I might have a chance. I just didn’t know if it was going to work out for me or not.”

But team sports are different. If Jovanovski was just a tad slower or a touch less agile after his hip op, he had teammates around him who could pick up the slack. If Muzz was a little bit slower around the court, he would take a pasting.

When he set off for Asia in September, he had three tournaments in China lined up and then he would come home by way of Antwerp. Just as in San Jose all those years ago, he did not know what to expect. He thought that a couple of matches a week would be a good effort, three would be a real result. Winning, though, was not even a pipe dream.

“I was getting bullied around the court and Stan was hitting a bunch of winners,” Muzz said after beating Wawrinka. “I kept putting returns in play and trying to get one more ball back. Stan easily could have won that match. It wasn’t like I was deserving of the win. I didn’t feel ready for the win – but it happened.”

It also happened while Muzz had one eye on his phone at all times. Back at home, Kim was heavily pregnant and could have gone into labour at any moment. That is why he was in Antwerp in the first place: it was the shortest distance from home. If the call came, he could be back in a few hours and the tennis could go hang.

From now until the start of the new season, Muzz will be at home, save for a week in Madrid for the new Davis Cup finals. He has shown himself – and everyone else – that his body is up to the rigours of regular match play. Five matches in six days, the last three of them going the distance, was proof that his new hip could take the strain and that the old Muzz is still alive and kicking. If he was tired at the end of the week, that was no problem. Yet more hard work in training can help with that.

The real test will come in Melbourne in January with his first taste of grand slam tennis since his comeback. The best-of-five sets format at the Australian Open will be the ultimate challenge. Then again, with what he has achieved in the past couple of months, from those first tentative steps in Mallorca at the Rafa Nadal Open in early September to the final in Antwerp this past weekend, no one will take him lightly in Australia. For the first time in two, long, painful years, he can look forward.

“I need now to start talking about my future,” he said. “I am certainly a lot more optimistic now.”

And it is about time he got back on road. He has worked long and hard at his rehab but every bloke needs a hobby to take his mind off the day job.

“We are going to have a third baby, which makes it three kids under the age of four,” Muzz said. “While I’ve been off tennis for the past couple of years, my family has got bigger. So maybe I need to get back on the road.”

Muzz credits Kim with much of his recovery – she has provided unstinting help, support and encouragement as he has worked his way back. But with a house full of very small kids and two dogs to contend with, she might be just a touch relieved that she can wave him off on the last few years of his career. Meanwhile, his mum, Judy, looks set for a lot more housework before her youngest is done with tennis for good.

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