Andy Murray broke down in tears after winning his first singles title since career-saving hip surgery by beating Stan Wawrinka at the European Open.
The Briton, 32, launched a stunning comeback from a set and a break down to win 3-6 6-4 6-4 in Antwerp to take his first title for more than two years.
Murray had surgery in January and was playing in just his seventh tournament since returning to singles.
He described it as “one of the biggest” wins of his career.
“It means a lot,” the three-time Grand Slam champion said. “The last few years have been extremely difficult.
” I didn’t expect to be in this position at all. I’m happy, very happy. “
Fellow Grand Slam champion Wawrinka, who has also had a number of recent injury issues, said:” To see you back at this level, it’s amazing.
“We’re all really happy. I’m sad I lost today but I’m really happy to see you back.”
A title 961 days – and one new hip – later
At the Australian Open in January atearful Murray said he feared his hip problem would force him to retireafter the tournament.
His comeback had been encouraging, reaching the quarter-finals of the China Open, but on Sunday in Belgium he produced his best performance yet against a fellow Grand Slam champion who was playing close to his best.
Murray played well in the first set but was overcome by Wawrinka’s scintillating hitting which continued into the second set when the Swiss hit four winners to win Murray’s serve for a set and a break lead.
Murray crucially saved two more break points soon after to stop himself falling two breaks behind and then won three games in a row before forcing the decider through his trademark athletic tennis.
Both players looked nervous at the start of the third set with four consecutive breaks of serve but at 4- 4 Murray saved two more critical break points, the second seen off with a big first serve.
In the following game, Wawrinka surged ahead but at 40 – 15 he hit a volley to a Murray lob that looked to be going wide and then Murray hit a running passing shot winner to move to deuce.
Shortly afterwards , on Murray’s first match point, Wawrinka hit a forehand wide and, after the pair embraced at the net, Murray was visibly emotional as he waved to the crowd.
‘Hip hip hurray’ – reaction
Former British number one Greg Rusedski:“Andy Murray has won his first ATP singles title with a metal hip. Incredible effort. What a competitor to win from a set and a break down against Stan the man. Who would have believed it. Amazing. “
Great Britain’s Davis Cup captain Leon Smith :“An astonishing effort Andy Murray. So so proud of you !!!! “
BBC North America editor Jon Sopel:“Best news of the day. Who’d have thought it? Andy your spirit and your fight are remarkable. Skill has never been in doubt. “
Former world number threeIvan Ljubicic:“Hip hip hurray Murray. Amazing stuff. Congrats to the whole team. “
Jamie Delgado, Murray’s coach:“Back in the winners circle again !!! Amazing Andy Murray and of course a big well done to all the team. “
Murray’s doubles partner at Queens, Feliciano Lopez:
Russell Fuller, BBC tennis correspondent
To win the match – from a set down, three games to one, and two further break points down – was remarkable.
But to win the title nine months after an operation which was likely to end his career at the highest level is an astonishing feat.
This was just Murray’s 17 th match back.Never mind the hip; stamina is usually a major issue after such a long absence from the tour.
Not in Murray’s case, it appears. Here he was completing, and winning, a fourth match in four days at the end of four weeks on the road.
He will finish t he year just outside the world top 100 after an unimaginably successful and beneficial run of seven tournaments.
Murray now returns home, where his wife is soon to give birth to their third child, and will then finish the season with his Great Britain team-mates at November’s Davis Cup finals.
Shapovalov wins first career title
Elsewhere in men’s tennis, Canada’s Denis Shapovalov won his first ATP Tour title at the Stockholm Open by beating Filip Krajinovic 6-4 6-4 in the final.
Shapovalov, 20, hit 16 aces and lost just two points on his first serve in a one-sided match in which he faced just one break point
The world number 34 will look to carry his good form into the 21 – and-under Next Gen ATP Finals starting on 5 November in Milan .
Russia’s Andrey Rublev celebrated his 22 nd birthday by winning the Kremlin Cup for his second career title.
Rublev beat France’s Adrian Mannarino, who was also runner-up last year, 6-4, 6-0.