Andy Murray has become the first British player and the 26th player overall to attain the No. 1 ranking in Singles. Earlier this year, brother Jamie became the first British player to be No. 1 in doubles. In the past two years, challenging Novak Djokovic for the No. 1 ranking was considered Sisyphean until Murray turned things around this season, which also saw a lack of vigor in Djokovic post winning the French Open. Andy Murray has been the opportunist in the truest sense. With Djokovic’s form taking a dip and Federer and Nadal struggling with injuries, Murray realized that this was his best chance to fulfil his dreams. Murray has been considered as the No. 4 player in the Big Four for most of the time since the four have been around. It has always been either Federer’s era or Nadal’s or Djokovic’s. Murray has been the one to lose finals while the three soared.
Djokovic has a 13-2 record against Murray in the last 15 matches played, which includes beating him in the finals of the Australian Open and the French Open this year. But post his victory at Roland Garros, Djokovic has faltered against lesser players and has been unable to keep up the momentum. Djokovic, who saw his streak of 122 consecutive weeks at No. 1 come to an end is looking to equal Federer’s record of six Tour Finals titles. He has been drawn in Group Ivan Lendl with Milos Raonic (7-0) and two debutants, Gael Monfils (13-0) and Dominic Thiem (3-0). Djokovic has an easier draw comparatively as Raonic is not fully fit (he pulled out of his semi-final match in Paris recently) and Monfils and Thiem having qualified for the first time lack experience. Minus Djokovic, this group collectively does not seem very impressive on paper, while the other group has 7 Grand Slam titles amongst them and every player known for his hard court game.
Group John McEnroe is led by Andy Murray who boasts of a good record against his group members. 9-7 against Stan Wawrinka, 7-2 against Kei Nishikori and 11-3 against Marin Cilic. Murray also has 11-1 indoor record this season, his lone loss was against Juan Martin DelPotro in the Davis Cup semi-finals. Murray has never reached the finals of the Tour Finals, another target for him after winning the Davis Cup last year, winning Wimbledon and the Olympic Gold this year and attaining the No. 1 ranking.
In all likelihood, Murray could have a very short stint as No. 1, if Djokovic wins the Tour Finals without losing a match. But for that to happen, O2 will need to have the old Novak Djokovic, who was full of energy and equally hungry. The Djokovic today looks exhausted and approaching saturation. He has shown signs of spiritual weariness and demotivation in the past couple of weeks.
Murray has broken through the glass ceiling and given hope to players like Wawrinka and Nishikori who are considered inconsistent. Murray has reminded everyone of his ability to inspire admiration from both his rivals and his fans. Although it is always sad to see the dominance of players like Federer, Nadal and Djokovic fade, it is very healthy for the sport when other players emerge. Whoever might finish the year as No. 1, 2017 is going to be a very challenging season, with rejuvenated Nadal and Federer back on the tour and DelPotro rising up by the tournament.
And who said, the era of the Big Four was over? The last time I checked, the World No. 1 is still one of the Four.