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ANDY MURRAY fought back from a set down to win the AEGON Championships at the Queen’s Club yesterday and then proclaimed that he is heading to Wimbledon next week to win.
The world No.4 beat France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 in an entertaining 2hr 25min final, which had been rescheduled after heavy rain on Sunday, to become the first Briton since Francis Gordon Lowe in 1914 to win the traditional Wimbledon warm-up event twice.
As he often does, Murray battled back in the face of adversity to clinch his first title since his Masters 1000 victory in Shanghai last October. Although the only other two players to have won the Queen’s event on a Monday –Boris Becker and John McEnroe – have then gone on to suffer early exits at Wimbledon, Murray is hoping that will not apply to him.
“I’m going to Wimbledon with the feeling that I’m going to win the tournament,” the 24-year-old said. “You need to, as I don’t think you can go in with any other attitude. I feel I am playing good tennis but I will need to improve in the next week or so and work on some things.
“I will need to play my best tennis throughout the tournament. I will be switched on for the first match and am really looking forward to the next five or six days to get ready for it because, for me, it is one of the most important tournaments of the year, if not the most.”
The Queen’s final on a day billed “People’s Monday” had captivated tennis fans after tournament organisers decided to sell tickets for just £10, compared to the usual price of £87. More than 4000 tickets were sold overnight with around 2000 held back on the gate, for which the queue started at 2am.
After a solid start on serve from both players, it was Murray who earned the first break point in the third game, which Tsonga was fortunate to save with a volley which received some assistance from the net cord. A poor service game at 2-3 from Murray then gifted Tsonga first blood.
The world No.19 was in inspired form at this stage, pulling off Becker-like diving volleys and was serving strongly. On the other side of the net, Murray was struggling to replicate the form he had hit against Andy Roddick on Saturday, missing shots that he was routinely making only two days previously.
Murray did earn a couple of break-back points in the 12th game after a stunning forehand cross-court pass on the run, but these went begging and Tsonga closed out the first set 6-3 in 39 minutes.
In this century, only Andy Roddick, in 2007, and Lleyton Hewitt, in 2002, had come back to win from a set down in the Queen’s final and Murray was certainly up against it.
The second set was a tight affair with Tsonga continuing to boss the points. Anything Murray left slightly short was easily dispatched by the Frenchman, who was not afraid to venture in towards the net. Murray held on though and even earned four break points at 4-3, but Tsonga produced some of his best tennis to save them all.
Before the match, Murray had proclaimed Tsonga as one of the best grass-court players in the world and he was living up to the praise. He even came close to serving for the title when he had two break points on Murray’s serve at 5-5 and was unfortunate not to take one of them when the ball hit the net cord and bounced back on his own side.
Fittingly, the set went into a tie-break in which Murray started to serve better and Tsonga started to make errors. Murray clinched the tie-break 7-2 when a Tsonga forehand return went wide after which the Scot let out one of his trademark roars which made a fairly muted Queen’s Club crowd come alive.
Murray earned further break points in the early part of the third set but failed to take them. However, Tsonga was missing shots he had been making earlier in the match and the breakthrough for Murray came at 2-2 when Tsonga put a forehand wide to finally give Murray the crucial break.
From there, Murray was never troubled on serve and he even played a stunning yet unorthodox half-volley drop- shot through his legs towards the end which had the crowd on their feet. The victory was completed with an overhead smash on his first match point of three to round off a fine week.
“It has been one of the most fun weeks for me because the tennis in the last two matches was very good,” said Murray. “It was also relaxing. Everyone thinks that this period of the year is so stressful and that you can’t play and enjoy yourself, but I felt like I expressed myself well on court.
“I felt relaxed, I felt like I was hitting the ball really well and I enjoyed it. It was fun, even though there were rain delays, days off, guys pulling out and the small problems that I had, I enjoyed the week and dealt with everything that was in front of me.”