LONDON (Reuters) - Briton Andy Murray withstood an athletic onslaught from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to beat the Frenchman 3-6 7-6 6-4 and win the final of the Queen's Club championships on Monday.
The climax of the Wimbledon warm-up event was being held a day late after rain washed out play on Sunday and, while conditions stayed dry, Murray weathered the storm of Tsonga's fast groundstrokes, diving volleys and energetic charges.
"He was playing a different sport to me in the first two sets. I've never seen anyone dive so much," the world number four grinned in a courtside interview.
Murray, who picked up his second Queen's trophy after also triumphing in 2009, goes into next week's grasscourt grand slam at the All England Club having given the British public and media even more reason than usual to set expectations high.
Having dished out a grasscourt masterclass to American Andy Roddick in the semi-finals, Murray was forced to play a different game against Tsonga who hurled every imaginable shot at the Briton while also throwing his body across the court.
The Frenchman's high-risk strategy of attack had looked like paying off before an unlucky net cord in the 11th game of the second set prevented him from breaking to serve for the match.
The ball bounced off the top of the net and had looked like it would make it over the net before dropping down on the wrong side in what was a major turning point in the match.
"I remember only this ball," Tsonga said on court. "Today I had only one chance, it was this one but I missed it. But today Andy was just too good and I will try to beat him next time."
Fifth seed Tsonga had lost to Murray in the quarter-finals at last year's Wimbledon and he found himself lacking once again as the Scot drew on his experience of three grand slam final appearances, as well as his passing shots, to see him through.
His mouth often caught somewhere between a grimace and a look of mild amusement as Tsonga reached the most impossible shots, Murray gave the Frenchman a taste of his own medicine with some outlandish shots of his own.
His first between-the-legs forehand was unbelievably batted back by a diving Tsonga in the second set but the second time he tried the trick, he won the point at the net to go 5-3 up in the final set.
"I got my feet a bit messed up and I wasn't planning on doing that when I went forward, I do it sometimes in practice but I've never tried it at the net but I'll give it a few more goes," said Murray.
Having won the second-set tiebreak with ease 7-2, Murray carried his momentum through the third set where he dominated and he wrapped up the title with a seemingly heart-felt smash as Tsonga's tenacious challenge came to an end.
"He's so much fun to watch, I enjoy watching him myself but he wasn't fun to play today," Murray said of his opponent.
"It's been great preparation this week (for Wimbledon) and I'll work hard for the next five or six days to get ready."
(Writing by Sonia Oxley; Editing by Mark Meadows and Brian Homewood)