Murray Sets Wawrinka Final Showdown In Antwerp
Murray rallies to three-set victory
Two years and eight months after winning his 45th tour-level trophy in Dubai, Andy Murray returned to an ATP Tour championship match on Saturday.
The former World No. 1, who returned to singles action at the Western & Southern Open in August, defeated Ugo Humbert 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 at the European Open to reach his first tour-level final since undergoing a second right hip surgery on 28 January. Since arriving at the Huajin Securities Zhuhai Championships last month, Murray has won 8 of 11 matches on the ATP Tour.
“I am obviously happy to be in the final,” said Murray. “I did very well to turn that match around today. It was tough. He was playing huge from the back of the court… It was tricky today but I am obviously happy to be back in a final.”
Appearing in his first tour-level semi-final since 2017 Roland Garros, Murray rallied from a set down to overcome Humbert in two hours and 22 minutes. Murray has contested almost five hours of tennis in the past two days. After straight-sets victories in his opening two matches against Kimmer Coppejans and Pablo Cuevas, Murray outlasted Marius Copil in a two-hour, 35-minute quarter-final clash on Friday.
The 45-time tour-level titlist will meet a familiar opponent in the final: Stan Wawrinka. Murray leads his fellow three-time Grand Slam champion Wawrinka 11-8 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
“I think it will be a nice match to play,” said Murray. “Me and Stan have played a lot against each other… It is nice that we are both able to be back playing against each other in a final.”
After saving two break points at 2-2 with attacking play, Humbert claimed the only break of the first set in the following game. The #NextGenATP Frenchman continued to find success on his forehand side and attacked Murray’s serve, before back-to-back errors from the former World No. 1 handed Humbert a 4-2 lead. Three games later, the 21-year-old fired his third ace of the match to hold serve to love and clinch the set after 41 minutes.
Murray and Humbert traded breaks early in the second set, before finding their rhythm on serve to head towards a tie-break. But Murray avoided that scenario, breaking at 6-5 as nerves began to creep into Humbert’s game. The 32-year-old earned three set points as Humbert began to misfire and was gifted the set as the World No. 70 committed his third double fault of the contest.
From 0/40 down in the opening game of the decider, Murray showcased his best court coverage skills to earn a 2-0 lead. Unlike the second set, the 6’3” right-hander maintained his advantage before securing his fourth break of the match to reach the final. Murray moved up the court to convert his first match point, volleying into the open court after outmanoeuvring his opponent.
“It was obviously big for me to get that [6-5] game in the second set, but the game that won me the match was the first game of the third set," said Murray. "When I was 0/40 down, I think I played a couple of good points. It was a huge game to get out of. I felt like the momentum was with me… Once I won that game, I felt like that was what set me on my way.”
Humbert was aiming to reach his first ATP Tour final and boost his chances of qualifying for the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. The #NextGenATP Frenchman entered the week in eighth position in the ATP Race To Milan, with only seven automatic qualification spots available for the 5-9 November event.
Did You Know?
Murray’s win ends a run of French finalists at this event. In each of the previous three editions of the tournament, France has been represented in the final. Richard Gasquet (2016) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2017) claimed the first two European Open titles, before Gael Monfils’ final run last year.