For many, 2016 has been a year to forget; however, one man will not be forgetting it in a hurry. No, not Donald Trump, but Britain’s Andy Murray. The Scot capped off a fine 2016 by defeating rival Novak Djokovic to win the ATP World Tour Finals and secure the world #1 ranking.
Murray’s win marks a remarkable 24th consecutive victory which has seen him leapfrog Djokovic at the top of the world rankings. In the process he’s managed to win five titles in a row.
If you rewind back to the beginning of 2016 it may have appeared that we were in for another season of Djokovic domination. Murray’s nemesis looked imperious, winning the Australian Open in January and following that up with titles in Miami, Indian Wells, and Madrid. The Serb then completed the career Grand Slam by winning his first ever French Open title.
Sure, Murray defeated Djokovic to win the Rome Masters and still made the finals of the Australian and French Open, but it seemed once again that the British #1 was destined to be the bridesmaid rather than the bride.
Conversely, following Roland Garros, the season belonged to Andy Murray. First of all he won a record fifth title at Queen’s Club. With Ivan Lendl back in his box, the Scot then looked forward with confidence to Wimbledon.
For the first time ever, Murray had a clear run at a Grand Slam. He didn’t have to face any of the other players from the Big Four. Instead he swept aside Milos Raonic in the final to win his second Wimbledon crown .
His triumph at SW19 was only the beginning. Murray did what no other man has achieved–win a second consecutive Olympic singles gold medal. And boy was it a tough task. In arguably one of the best matches of 2016, Murray defeated a rejuvenated Juan Martin del Potro in Rio in an epic four-hour encounter.
Murray’s season would still have been considered extremely successful were it to end at that point.
There were still some disappointments to come. Losses to Marin Čilić in Cincinnati and to Kei Nishikori at the US Open will be considered wasted opportunities. The Scot was his own worst enemy during his defeat at the hands of the Japanese at Flushing Meadows .
Despite this dip, it wasn’t long until the British #1 was back on track and winning tournaments again. His first success came at the China Open where not only did he win, but didn’t drop a set. Murray followed this up by capturing the Shanghai Masters, again not dropping a set on his way to victory.
With Murray racking up victories, the once seemingly impossible task of knocking Novak Djokovic off the top of the world rankings now seemed a distinct possibility.
Murray continued his hot streak by winning the Erste Bank Open in Vienna. However, it was his triumph at the Paris Masters which saw him defy the odds and capture the #1 ranking.
He became the first British singles player, male or female, to be #1 in the world. And in case you need any more evidence of his hard work paying off, Murray also holds the record for the longest time between first becoming world #2 and becoming world #1–over seven years and two months.
Andy Murray defeats Novak Djokovic to secure World #1 Spot
There was only one more event left in the tennis calendar, the ATP Tour Finals. All Murray had to do was equal or better the result of Djokovic to cement himself as the year end #1 player. Simple right? Wrong, the draw wasn’t kind to Murray, pitting him against Kei Nishikori, Stan Wawrinka, and Marin Čilić in Group John McEnroe.
The Scot made light work of Wawrinka and Čilić, but had to endure a titanic clash against Nishikori. Murray won the contest which lasted over three hours and 20 minutes–the longest match since the ATP Finals moved to London.
In the semifinals a few days later, Murray was embroiled in another brutal match, this time against Milos Raonic. With the Canadian being a big server, you wouldn’t expect a lengthy match full of rallies, but that’s what we got. Murray somehow managed to emerge victorious, winning an extremely tight third set tie-break.
The Scot had set a second record for longest match at the O2 Arena in only four days. Meanwhile Djokovic took around an hour to swat aside Kei Nishikori.
In the end Murray’s fatigue was not a deciding factor. He ran out a comfortable winner against his Serbian adversary, defeating him 6-3, 6-4 in the final.
Murray is World #1 on merit
The doubters will say that Murray was aided significantly by a poor Djokovic performance. However, at the end of the day he can only defeat who is in front of him. Djokovic himself conceded that Murray is currently the better player:
“Andy’s definitely No. 1 of the world. He’s the best player. He deserved to win.”
Many never expected to see Murray finishing the year as world #1, including the Scot himself. He can look forward to some brief time off before resuming battle in 2017. There’s a great chance for him to add to his Grand Slam tally and, given his light schedule and the number of points that Djokovic has to defend at the start of 2016, retain the #1 ranking for the first few months of the new season.
Although, there may still be some awards coming his way before 2016 draws to a close–most notably a potential record-breaking third BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.