For the first time since the ATP tour rankings was established in 1973, a male British tennis player sits as the world number one: he could not be more deserving of this monumental achievement. Andy Murray, in overtaking his great friend and rival Novak Djokovic, has truly cemented himself as one of the greatest sportsmen the United Kingdom has ever had to offer, following a truly magical season, both on, and off, the tennis court.
It was this time last year that Murray helped Great Britain win their first Davis Cup title since 1936, a brilliant start to a brilliant year. After losing both the Australian and French Open to the former number one Djokovic, it seemed the Scot was going to repeat a frustrating side of his game. Notwithstanding his world-class ability, Murray has struggled in the past to convert good, solid performances in tournaments into major title wins. Indeed, before the summer, he had won two, but had lost eight, of his major final appearances. In July, though, after missing out in Australia and France, he did manage to win his second Wimbledon title after beating Djokovic, before winning the Olympic Gold in Rio against Juan Martin Del Potro. Recently, in the month of October alone, he has managed to win three titles, two in China and one in Austria. Because of this scintillating form and after winning the Paris Masters – where his Serbian rival was knocked out in the Quarter-Final – he was officially announced as the new world number one.
Off the court, Murray celebrated the birth of his daughter Sophia in February, rounding off what has been, for Murray, unlike many people, a brilliant 2016. Murray has now been drawn in a tough looking group in this weekend’s ATP World Tour Finals alongside Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Marian Cilic.
The incredible duo of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, conversely, will not be taking part in this year’s showdown event at the 02 arena in London for the first time in over a decade, after prematurely ending their seasons through injury. For many, these two players form the best rivalry the sport of tennis has ever witnessed. Between them, they have 30 major title victories and would have almost certainly have added more to this impressive tally had it not been for the emergence of great players such as Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
Despite this recent lack of success from Nadal and Federer, 2016 has hardly been doom and gloom for them on the tennis court. Federer managed to reach semi-finals in both his Grand Slam appearances, whilst Nadal managed to win Gold and Bronze medals at the Rio Olympics. Federer was unlucky in playing against a resilient Andy Murray, whilst Nadal, competing in three different disciplines in Brazil, found the schedule, as well as the intensity of the matches, too much to regain his singles title, but managed to win the men’s doubles with his friend David Lopez.
Their legacy is not finished, but as their powers begin to fade, one will do well to remember the players that they were, not what they currently are. Hopefully they can carry on playing as long as possible, especially since they have certainly brought tennis to the masses, and, alongside Serena Williams, are global superstars. One thing that is certain, indeed, is that once they retire, the sport will never be the same again. However, sport evolves in cycles, and although off to court the sport might be marred with match fixing scandals, on the court, it is in a healthy position due to the amount of top players who are still playing and can challenge for major titles. Make no mistake about it, though, 2016 belongs to our very own Andy Murray, and long may that continue.
Photo Credit: Rex