LONDON: Andy Murray was tipped to become ‘Sir Andy’ after crowning a golden season on top of the world days after brother Jamie topped the doubles standings, prompting their mother to hail the “kings of world tennis”.
Andy produced an imperious display to defeat long-time rival Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-4 and win the ATP Tour Finals at London’s O2 Arena on Monday.
The 29-year-old’s first Tour Finals title came with the hugely significant bonus of ensuring that he remained above Djokovic in the year-end rankings after he knocked the Serb from pole position two weeks ago.
Murray’s victory capped an impressive 2016 that also saw the Scot win the Wimbledon and Olympic singles titles.
Having spent the majority of his career overshadowed by the incredible achievements of Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Murray can finally claim he is the best player on the planet.
Leading British bookmaker William Hill promptly installed Murray as a 2/1 chance to be given a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in Britain’s New Year honors list
Were he to be so honored, Murray would join Olympic champions Sir Bradley Wiggins (cycling) and Sir Ben Ainslie (sailing) as sportsmen with a knighthood.
“Come on your majesty @andy_murray for a knighthood. World number one,” tweeted businessman Alan Sugar, a former chairman of Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur.
But while Wiggins is winding down his illustrious career, Murray made it clear he wanted to retain his number one ranking and add to his tally of three Grand Slam singles titles.
“I would like to try and stay there, obviously. It’s taken a huge effort the last five, six months to get there,” Murray said after his 24th consecutive victory brought him a fifth title in his last five tournaments.
“I’m aware that’s going to be extremely difficult because I had a great year this year and I only managed to do it by one match.
“But now that I’ve got there, I would be motivated to try and stay in that position.”
He added: “The majors are what gets me working hard and what really, really motivates me. When I go away in December to train, I’m training with the Australian Open in mind.
His victory over Djokovic capped a brilliant week for the Murray family after brother Jamie guaranteed the year-end doubles world number one pair ranking together with Brazil’s Bruno Soares.
Judy Murray, the brothers’ mother and herself a tennis coach, posted a picture of her two sons on Twitter, captioned: “Andy & Jamie Murray: Pride of Scotland, Kings of world tennis.”
There was praise too from Federer, widely regarded as one of tennis’s all-time greats: “Epic start to the year by @DjokerNole. Epic end to the year by @andy_murray, ending #1 +Y? Congrats guys.”
And the congratulations extended beyond the world of tennis, with JK Rowling, the author of the best-selling Harry Potter books, tweeting: “I’d almost forgotten what it’s like when the person you really, really want to win, wins! @andy_murray”.
Meanwhile former British number one Tim Henman urged Britain’s governing Lawn Tennis Association to exploit Andy Murray’s success by doing all it could to get some of his compatriots into the top tier as well.
“It’s imperative of the LTA and the game of tennis in this country that they capitalise on it,” Henman told the BBC. “They have an unbelievable role model.
“It’s been such a journey. He’s overcome so many hurdles but this has to inspire the next generation to play the game and produce better players going forward.”
‘Nothing is eternal’
Murray had lost 13 of his previous 15 meetings with Djokovic, including the Australian and French Open finals this year, and he admitted it was a huge moment finally to get the better of him.
“Over the last couple of years I lost a lot of the big matches against him. This one was a big match and I managed to get over the line,” he said.
“Mentally that will give me a boost going into next year as well.”
Djokovic accepted his form had dipped towards the end of a 2016 where he won a first French Open title.
“The last five, six months have not been ideal. I could have maybe done slightly better in some tournaments,” he said.
“Nothing is eternal. It’s time to leave the racquet aside for a little bit, just recover, then I’ll start thinking about next season.”
Murray is now firmly established as one of Britain’s all-time great sportsmen, but he demurred when asked where he rated.
“I have no idea. It’s an impossible question. In tennis terms, in terms of my achievements over the years, I’d say I’d be the best tennis player from the UK,” he said.