In what has been a rollercoaster year for tennis, Andy Murray secured his No. 1 ranking to close out the 2016 season with a win vs. longtime friend and rival Novak Djokovic at the ATP World Tour Finals in London. He has now won his last 24 ATP matches and will end the season at No. 1 for the first time in his career at 29 years old. The match ultimately ended 6-3, 6-4, ending Djokovic’s four-year winning streak at the same event.
It is a tremendous accomplishment for Murray, and perhaps a fitting ending to what has been a strange year for Djokovic. After opening the year dominantly and winning both the Australian and French Open, he fell early at both Wimbledon and the Rio Olympics and could not manage to make the final in August’s US Open despite surviving the longest out of the “Big Four.”
Djokovic played well against Kei Nishikori in Saturday’s semifinals and didn’t appear to have the same energy on Sunday. He recorded a staggering 30 errors on just 13 winners, extremely out of character for a player who has established a winning career based on precision. He will close out 2016 at No. 2, a ranking that is by no means one to scoff at. Few people would doubt that he will return with renewed vigor in 2017.
As for Murray, he started off the year with two Grand Slam finals appearances that he would concede to Djokovic, before reuniting with former coach Ivan Lendl at the commencement of the grass season and reclaiming the Wimbledon title, which he had last won in 2013. Just a few weeks later, he returned to the Olympic stage in Rio and captured his second-consecutive gold medal. Despite a hiccup at the US Open, he did well at the Paris Masters in early November and won the ATP Finals today to finish the year at 78-9.
Murray has spent a long time as one of the dubbed “Big Four,” composed of himself, Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal. But he has always been the one with the least amount of Grand Slam titles, the one who was close but never quite reached No. 1. Whether it be because Djokovic skid towards the end of the season and Nadal and Federer weren’t always around, Murray proved this year that he was willing to work hard to be the best. And he had to defeat Novak Djokovic, the reigning No. 1, to get there. It is no fortunate coincidence that he stands atop the rankings tonight.
“I’ve never done this before in my career, so the most important thing now is for me to rest, take enough of a break so I can train hard in December,” said Murray after today’s match. He reiterated that he won’t be resting on his laurels between now and January’s Open: “Australia, it’s a place that I’ve come close quite a few times and come up short…that’s the next or immediate goal, really.”