Andy Murray and his World No.1 season

 

By Jake Davies

  • Andy Murray’s magical 2016 season in all its glory
  • Murray claimed a career-best nine titles in all of 2016
  • The Brit capped the year off by becoming the Year End World No.1 player
LONDON, ENGLAND – Andy Murray capped off an outstanding year on Sunday with both the season-ending finale and the year-end No. 1 spot – here’s how he did it!

 

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Murray’s season started off brilliantly down under

The start to Andy Murray‘s 2016 season was nothing short of fantastic. The Australian Open has always been a major that Murray has excelled at and this year’s was no different as he managed to make his fifth Australian Open final, but came up short, losing to Novak Djokovic in the final. In order for Murray to have an elite season that surpassed his previous accomplishments, he would need to find a way to overturn some of his biggest rivals and Djokovic was one of them.

Just like the majority of their previous meetings, Djokovic proved to be a step too far for Murray and now it was the British No.1 player’s turn to overcome adversity in the months to come – just like he did on his way to the first Olympic singles gold after one of his biggest setbacks of losing the 2012 Wimbledon final to Roger Federer. Murray responded incredibly to that moment of torture.

 

Murray enjoys his best clay court season to date

Over the years, Federer has set an unbelievable standard on the grass courts of Wimbledon, Djokovic has been a formidable foe on the hard courts particularly in Australia and Rafael Nadal‘s dominance on the clay courts has made it difficult for anyone to win titles regularly on the red clay. Those three players set the bar so high for Murray, but his unrelenting work ethic to improve continuously over the course of his career is why Murray is one of the greatest British sportsman in history.

Murray did not play particularly well in Monte Carlo. He faced a rough scare against Frenchman Benoit Paire, but won from a set and a break down and eventually lost to Nadal. Nadal would go on to win his 9th Monte Carlo title, so there was no shame in losing to the great champion.

Murray got sweet revenge over Nadal, beating him for the second year in a row at the Mutua Madrid Open and would go on to make another Masters 1000 final but losing again to the then World No.1 Djokovic in the final. The sheer resilience and relentlessness of Murray was what drove the Brit to a first Masters 1000 title in Rome where he overcame a tired Djokovic in the final. That marked his second Masters 1000 title on the clay and he looked like one of the favourites for the Roland Garros title in the weeks to come. It was definitely the best shape that Murray has looked in going into the second major of the season as clay is a surface he has found difficult to adjust to in previous years.

Murray finished his clay season with a runner up trophy at Roland Garros. A 17-3 clay court win/loss record boasted considerable improvements on this surface and would encourage Murray to work even harder to dominate on a surface he has always excelled on – the grass courts in London.

 

Murray magic on the grass as Lendl rejoins team

The return of Ivan Lendl in Murray’s coaching set up definitely made a huge impact. The mental edge that Lendl gives Murray cannot be discounted, after all, Lendl helped transform Murray into a losing Grand Slam finalist to a US Open champion. It is a winning ingredient that Murray felt needed to be returned to his game in order to get back to winning the biggest titles of them all. With the help of Jamie Delgado, Murray became the first man to win the Queens title on five occasions and remained undefeated on the grass courts as he claimed his second Wimbledon title by beating Milos Raonic in the final. Little did anyone know that the winning run would roll on into the Olympic Games in Rio.

 

Murray becomes first man to defend an Olympic singles gold

Murray had his moments of distress in Rio. He drew close to defeat against Steve Johnson, which got decided in a final set tiebreak, but the self-belief that sets the top players from the rest of the field seemed to shine bright for the Scot.

In the gold medal match, Juan Martin Del Potro threw everything at Murray in a match that lasted over four hours, but Murray found a way to win as he stood arms aloft . The first man to ever defend an Olympic singles crown and the eighteenth win in a row for Murray – the year was beginning to look very special to say the least.

Three tough losses after an exhausting summer for Murray

When a player has a habit for winning matches in any sport, sometimes the instinctive reaction is to continue to play until the magic formula starts to run out. A few difficult losses could have set many players back completely, but Murray took time off to regroup and recharge his batteries before he pursued more titles and success in the coming weeks and months.

He lost to Marin Cilic in the Cincinnati Masters final, lost a disappointing match to Kei Nishikori in the Quarter-Final of the US Open, which was a match that Murray would feel he could have handled differently.

The US Open was a real opportunity for Murray to add to his Grand Slam collection when you consider the way he was playing. It was the best form of his career. Murray had always experienced consistent results at the highest level in recent years, but this time he was delivering titles consistently at the biggest events, which was something that Djokovic had only been doing inside the last 18 months.

Before he took a few days of extended rest, he came up short in one of the greatest Davis Cup rubbers as he fell to Argentina’s Del Potro in a tight five-set match. This would send Great Britain out of the Davis Cup and end the defence of their 2015 crown.

 

A first Paris Masters title and holding the World No.1 ranking

Murray returned to winning ways with two title wins in Asia. He won at 500 level in Beijing, and, in a tournament he has always played well at, he won a second Masters 1000 title of the year by winning Shanghai. Murray, who had never won a title at the Paris Masters indoors, became the first British winner since Tim Henman in 2003, as he delivered his fourth title in succession by winning Vienna and Paris.

The Paris Masters win signalled Murray winning the World No.1 ranking for the first time in his career and is just the 26th ATP World No.1 player since ATP rankings began in 1973. To further demonstrate the enormity of this achievement, only Federer, Djokovic and Nadal had won the World No.1 ranking since 2004 – it is an accolade that not many players can say they have salvaged in recent years. The perseverance of Murray to fight through the low moments in his career, like the back surgery in late 2013, has made him the player that he is today.

 

The first British Year End No.1 player in the world

Murray moved into the World Tour Finals on a 19 match winning streak spanning over four weeks and winning four titles. There was no player in greater form, unfortunately, Murray was given the toughest of groups. His group consisted of Cilic, Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka – three players who had already beaten Murray in the grandest of matches over the years.

After beating Cilic easily in straight sets, Murray played the longest match in ATP World Tour Finals history in beating Nishikori in 3 hours and 20 minutes, thus getting his revenge for the tough US Open loss. In the third group match, Murray notched the most impressive result of the week, fighting off an explosive Wawrinka to top the group unbeaten.

In the semi-finals we had a repeat of the Wimbledon final as Raonic rose to the challenge and played one of his closest matches against Murray but fell in nearly four hours – He saved match point and made his first final at this event – Djokovic awaited him in the final.

Djokovic held a tremendous record against the Brit at 24-10. Murray had only won 2 matches in their last 15 matches since Wimbledon 2013. The big question was whether Murray could hold up physically after a long match the day before and whether he could match Djokovic psychologically during the longer rallies.

Murray held his own and showcased the confidence that had guided him through 77 match wins in 2016. Djokovic lacked notable match wins at this level and Murray capitalised and remained undefeated in 23 matches to become the first British Year-End No.1 player.

A terrific achievement for British tennis. Murray made the final or better in 13 of the 17 tournaments he played in 2016 and won a career-best 9 of those 13 finals. It is the sort of consistency we had yet to witness in British tennis and it could be a long time until we experience anything quite like this again.

 

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