It is official, Britain has its very first ATP World Number One singles player in Andy Murray. After a remarkable 12 months, the Scot overcome an 8,000-point deficit in the world rankings to climb above Serbian Superstar Novak Djokovic for the first time in his career. Murray retained his Olympic singles title in 2016, while storming to a second Wimbledon title, nine calendar victories, and, of course, that illusive No.1 ranking. It is time to review just how good this calendar year has been for our (arguably) greatest ever tennis player.
Anything is possible
Over 11 months ago, I wrote an article for Britennis.com, previewing Andy Murray’s chances of achieving what one would consider to be success for one of the greatest sports people that this country has, and potentially will, ever see. In that piece I addressed the question of whether or not becoming World Number One in 2016 was really a possibility for Murray, with almost 8,000 points separating the Scot and the then top seed Novak Djokovic.
With that focus in mind, I opted to lead with the cliché that ‘anything is possible’. However, even for someone who had already achieved so much more than was expected of him when that volatile young man first stepped foot on the ATP Tour, that by no means meant that his latest feat was any more likely to be accomplished.
A slow start
Achieving greatness in sport and in life in general takes hard work, and, for Murray, it was achieved by taking the most difficult and unlikely route possible.
After reaching a fourth Australian Open final in which he would face great rival Djokovic once again, Murray managed just three seats en route to being well-beaten by the top seed, before the Briton took a break to celebrate becoming a father to his daughter Sophia.
However, that was as far as any kind of rest went for Murray, as he returned to the ATP Tour in rather miserable fashion with early defeats at Indian Wells and the Miami Masters on the hard courts, before dropping to third in the world after falling in the latter rounds on the clay in Monte-Carlo and Madrid.
The beginning of something special
Coming away from a disappointing start to the year in North America, and following defeat on the Spanish clay, it was elsewhere in Europe where Murray was finally able to kick-start what had been a rather disappointing 2016 to date.
The 29 year-old went on to lift a first trophy of the year at the Italian Open, before finishing runner-up, again to Djokovic but this time over four sets, in his second Slam event of the year at Roland Garros.
But it was on the grass-courts in the early English summer where Murray laid the foundations to an eventual charge at the No.1 ranking, as he became the first ever five-time Champion at Queen’s, before lifting a second Wimbledon title in cruising to a straight sets victory against Canadian Milos Raonic.
Murray opted out of competing for Great Britain at the Davis Cup, choosing instead to focus on the Olympic Games, which proved to be another excellent decision as he became the first man to ever defend an Olympic singles title with victory at the end of a mammoth encounter with Argentina’s Juan Martín del Potro.
Becoming Number One
Having enjoyed an excellent run which included a 22-game winning streak – the best of his career at the time –, Murray suffered setbacks at the Cincinnati Masters and the US Open as an individual, as well as regrettably failing to help his country to retain its Davis Cup title from 2015, with defeat in Glasgow against eventual winners Argentina.
However, it was trip to Asia, and more specifically to the China Open that saw the start of an immense 24-match winning run, which in turn led to Murray becoming the first ever male to win Olympic Gold, a Grand Slam, a Masters 1000 event (of which he won three in 2016), and an ATP World Tour Finals, all in the same year.
To make the story that bit better, Murray of course ended the year as the best male player in his sport for the first time ever, defeating world numbers 5, 4, 3, and 2 – Kei Nishikori, Raonic, Stan Wawrinka, and Djokovic respectively – in four consecutive matches in order to achieve just that.
All that is left to say is that it is time to enjoy the present, as Britain can proudly boast that its recently named BBC Sports Personality of the Year is also one of the great athletes that this world has seen. And, after achieving what few believed possible just 12 months ago, who knows what we could be celebrating with Murray in 2017.