A look at his career: How Andy Murray became world number one
Murray has forged a career on being the chaser, forever looking upwards at some of the greatest men to ever play the sport.
It was somewhat anticlimactic that after the chase of the past few weeks and months Andy Murray finally became world number one for the first time with a walkover. The Scot didn’t even need to strike a single ball to achieve the one objective that had evaded him. And yet Milos Raonic’s withdrawal from the semi-finals of the Paris Masters provided the perfect metaphor for Murray’s rise.
The Scot ground down the competition until they could no longer put up any more of a fight. No player has ever fought harder to reach the top of men’s tennis. Murray has forged a career on being the chaser, forever looking upwards at some of the greatest men to ever play the sport. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic formed the strongest generation tennis has ever witnessed and now Murray is a bona fide member of that group.
To the pragmatic, Murray didn’t really need the number one ranking. He was already the best in the world before he secured the top spot at the Paris Masters on Saturday, underlined by his recent wins in Beijing, Shanghai and Vienna, as well as his Wimbledon triumph earlier this year. But the symbolic significance of the moment is undeniable. It could change how Murray is viewed in the context of history.
By rising to the very top Murray became just the 26th male world number one since computerised rankings began, adding his name to a list that includes some of the greatest to have ever played the sport - Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi just to name a few.
Now the challenge for Murray is to solidify himself among such company. Compared with some of his contemporaries the Scot is lagging behind in terms of major honours, winning just three Grand Slam titles to Djokovic’s 12, Federer’s 17 and Nadal’s 14. As world number one he is now surely targeting the silverware haul to go along with that.
With Federer and Nadal faded forces, and Djokovic suffering an almighty dip since his French Open win in May, this could be Murray’s chance to further his case as one of the sport’s true greats. Every member of the so-called Big Four have dominated for a prolonged spell at one time or another, but Murray has yet to enjoy that supremacy. This year is as close as he has come, but he still only won one Grand Slam from a possible four.
Of course, Murray’s career has always been warped by the achievements of his rivals. In any other generation of tennis he would have been the predominant talent, collecting many more titles than he has at the point of writing. But this only makes Murray’s success that little bit more special. He has had to work that bit harder.
This year’s Wimbledon final was the first time he had faced someone other than Djokovic or Federer in the final of a Grand Slam, overcoming Raonic in straight sets to lift the competition’s famous golden trophy for the second time. That is illustrative of just how tough Murray has had it, especially when compared to who each of his Big Four rivals had to beat to win their first Grand Slam. Federer - Mark Philippoussis, Nadal - Mariano Puerta, Djokovic - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
In terms of his current level, Murray is already one of the best tennis has ever produced. Men’s tennis has never been harder to scale, with a standard of physicality demanded like never before. Pit Murray against a legend of yesteryear like Borg, or even Sampras, and the Scot would surely emerge the hypothetical victor.
But trophies are used as a common measure between greats and Murray will be targeting a few more, making the most of what many now see as his time at the top. He is world number one, after all, and that’s what world number ones do.