As Andy Murray walked on court, it was instantly clear just how much this moment meant to him.
Phone in hand, the British sporting great filmed his own entrance to the centre court at the Cincinnati Masters. Expect to see that footage on Instagram later.
The half-empty arena certainly didnt provide the greatest fanfare of Murrays illustrious career but it was a moment worth relishing and one he feared may never come again.
Nearly 200 days after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery that he warned could end his professional life, Murray was back in singles action on the most famous hard courts in Ohio – the site of his first Masters 1000 win and perhaps the starting point of a journey back to the top of mens tennis.
More than six months ago, the former world No. 1 and three-time Grand Slam champion was essentially retired on court by his peers – including great rivals Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal – after hobbling out of the Australian Open but the video obituaries have proven to be premature for the Scot.
After two pain-filled years and several desperate attempts at a comeback, this operation has given Murray a new lease of life both on and off the court.
He won a title alongside Feliciano Lopez – who sat behind Aussie ace Nick Kyrgios in the Cincinnati crowd on Monday – upon his return at Queens and after four more doubles appearances over the summer he was confident enough ahead of his first singles match in more than six months to schedule subsequent events in Zhuhai and Beijing.
In the build-up to his meeting with familiar foe Richard Gasquet – the 33-year-old world No. 56 who also underwent surgery, on his groin, at the beginning of the year – Murray claimed he was roughly a couple of months ahead of his recovery schedule.
The rust was there for all to see in the opening game. He set the tone with a double fault and was broken courtesy of a string of errors off his historically trustworthy backhand.
After saving a break point that would have seen him fall 3-0 down Murray was suddenly level, capitalising on a loose game from his French oppenent and celebrating the final wayward forehand with a trademark Lets Go!.
The mannerisms of the 32-year-old Scot remain largely unchanged. He regularly chuntered to himself, looking quizzically towards his box whenever a mistake was made, but it was always an impossibility he would be able to reach the heights of yesteryear.
Indeed, the consistency of old was not there – the quality of the match somewhat suffered as a result – but losing a first competitive set in more than half a year 6-4 against a former world No. 7 is hardly disastrous.
An early break in the second set ensured it would not be a winning return for Murray – Gasquet emerged victorious 6-4 6-4 in an hour and 36 minutes to record his first win over the Scot in seven years – but there were signs that his timing was returning, with several on-the-run passing shots suggesting theres life in the old dog yet.