Andy Murray was crowned king of Queen’s Club for the third time as the world No. 2 roared back to defeat defending champion Marin Cilic 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 in Sunday’s final.
Murray was pushed hard by the Croatian fifth seed, but the US Open champion responded to the challenge with the kind of classy display that bodes well with Wimbledon just eight days away.
He picked up a cheque for ￡73,315 (US$115,000) for his latest triumph at the pre-Wimbledon warm-up event, but more importantly his dominant week’s work served as the perfect preparation ahead of his latest bid to end Britain’s long wait for a male winner of the singles’ title at the All England Club.
The 26-year-old’s third successful Queen’s campaign in five years, following previous victories in 2009 and 2011, took his career haul of ATP Tour titles to 27 and ended his wait for a first tournament win since the Miami Masters in March.
However, Murray, who started the week concerned by his fitness after a lower back injury forced him to miss the French Open, will hope a first set tumble that left him briefly clutching his groin in pain proves nothing serious.
“It’s been extremely wet and I just slipped. I was a bit sore in the groin area, thankfully it wasn’t too bad,” Murray told the BBC.
“Marin’s one of the best grass-court players in the world. We had a lot of close matches and I was lucky to come through at the end because he was playing such good tennis,” the Scot said.
Cilic said: “Andy showed he’s a great fighter and congratulations to him for his win here.”
“It was an extremely good week for me. I hope I can continue my good form and come back next year,” he said.
Murray has dominated on grass over the last year, reaching his first Wimbledon final and taking the gold medal in the London Olympics at the All England Club by thrashing Roger Federer.
He had also won eight of his previous nine meetings with Cilic and looked unfazed by the rain delayed start when play finally got underway three hours later than scheduled.
Setting the tempo from the baseline, Murray cleverly pushed the world No. 12 out of position as he drove a blistering forehand to break in the second game.
However, the Scot was not able to make the most of his early momentum.
Cilic was going for the lines to good effect and he broke when a forehand from Murray smashed into the net on the third break point of a pivotal game at 4-2.
The situation looked even bleaker for Murray when he screamed in anguish after falling as he went to change direction after being wrong-footed by a Cilic winner on break point on the Croat’s serve in the next game.
He lay in obvious discomfort on the grass for several moments and held his groin before finally playing on.
Murray seemed fairly untroubled by the injury once he resumed, but he had greater difficulty subduing Cilic.
The Croatian forced a succession of Murray miscues and he broke for a 6-5 lead before staving off two break points to take the set.
Even when Murray earned three break points at 3-2 in the second set, Cilic had all the answers and fought his way out of trouble.
However, Murray refused to accept it would not be his day and he hit back to level the match.
Serving to stay in the set at 6-5, Cilic’s concentration wavered for the first time and Murray pounced, unloading a superb return that the Croat could only push tamely into the net.
Murray had the initiative now and delivered the knockout blow with a break in the fourth game of the deciding set.
Cilic helped the Scot’s cause with a sloppy game riddled with unforced errors and Murray was in no mood to refuse the gift, quickly closing out the match in ruthless fashion with a series of searing winners.