With­out play­ing a point, Mur­ray seals No. 1 spot

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Af­ter such a long wait, reach­ing the sum­mit of men's tennis was an an­ti­cli­max for Andy Mur­ray.

With­out play­ing a sin­gle point, the Scot ended a seven-year wait to se­cure the No. 1 spot af­ter ad­vanc­ing to the Paris Masters fi­nal fol­low­ing Mi­los Raonic's with­drawal from the tour­na­ment.

Mur­ray found out about Raonic's leg in­jury just one hour be­fore the big-serv­ing Cana­dian was sched­uled to take on the 29year-old Bri­ton in the semi­fi­nals yes­ter­day.

"The way that it hap­pened to­day was quite strange," Mur­ray said. "I had al­ways imag­ined, ob­vi­ously, do­ing it on the court. Like last night, be­fore I went to bed, I was imag­in­ing do­ing it, kind of think­ing about it hap­pen­ing on the court af­ter a match."

De­spite Raonic's walk-over, Mur­ray gave the Paris fans some­thing to cheer about. He took to the court for a prac­tice ses­sion and hit a few shots with the ball boys and girls.

"I'm sure on Mon­day I'll feel good. But I'm not sure this is right in the rules, but if I get de­faulted in the match to­mor­row, I don't think I get the points from this week," Mur­ray joked. "So I need to make sure I'm on my best be­hav­ior, keep my racket in my hands, and all will be well on Mon­day."

Fol­low­ing Djokovic's loss in the quar­ter­fi­nals in Paris, Mur­ray only needed to make the fi­nal to take top spot off the Serb.

"Ob­vi­ously it's un­for­tu­nate the way that it hap­pened to­day," Mur­ray said. "But it's been many years of work to get here."

When the ATP rank­ings are pub­lished Mon­day, Mur­ray is guar­an­teed to hold at least a five­point lead over Djokovic, more than seven years af­ter he reached No. 2 for the first time. Their fight for supremacy will re­sume in Lon­don at the ATP fi­nals later this month.

Mur­ray faces John Is­ner in the Paris Masters fi­nal af­ter the Amer­i­can hit 18 aces to de­feat Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3.

No mat­ter the re­sult of Sun­day's fi­nal, Mur­ray will be­come the first Bri­ton to hold the top spot and the old­est first-time No. 1 since John New­combe at age 30 in 1974.

In an era dom­i­nated by the likes of Roger Fed­erer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic, reach­ing the sum­mit has been a long process for Mur­ray, who has spent 76 weeks at No. 2.

"It's been such a dif­fi­cult thing to do dur­ing my ca­reer be­cause of how good the guys around me have been, the guys ahead of me," Mur­ray said.

"It's been re­ally, re­ally hard to do it, been re­ally dif­fi­cult. Ob­vi­ously they are three of the best play­ers that have ever played the game ... some of the years that they have had in that pe­riod, as well, have been, I mean, ridicu­lous, re­ally. Like three slams and dou­ble slams ... So, you know, it's taken a great year to get there."

A turn­ing point in Mur­ray's ca­reer came when he hired Ivan Lendl as a coach in 2011. Dur­ing their first stint to­gether, Lendl man­aged to turn Mur­ray from a four-time Grand Slam run­ner-up into a two-time ma­jor cham­pion.

Mur­ray won Olympic gold in Lon­don in 2012 and the U.S. Open ti­tle later the same year. In 2013, he be­came the first Bri­tish man to tri­umph at Wim­ble­don in 77 years.

Be­fore win­ning the U.S. Open, Mur­ray was 0-4 in Grand Slam fi­nals. Only one other man in the Open era, which be­gan in 1968, lost his first four ma­jor ti­tles matches — Lendl. The Czech­born base­line player then went on to win eight Grand Slam sin­gles ti­tles dur­ing a 17-year ca­reer, spend­ing 270 weeks at No. 1 in the world rank­ings.

Mur­ray re­placed Lendl with Amelie Mau­resmo in 2014. Though the French­woman helped him climb back up the rank­ings fol­low­ing back surgery, the part­ner­ship ended in May this year with­out any new ma­jor ti­tle. Lend rein­te­grated Mur­ray's per­for­mance team be­fore Wim­ble­don, a week af­ter the Scot lost to Djokovic in the French Open fi­nal, to work along­side Mur­ray's full-time coach Jamie Del­gado.

The move paid off im­me­di­ately: Mur­ray claimed a se­cond ti­tle at the All Eng­land Club and a se­cond gold medal at the Rio Olympics. Last week in Vi­enna, he won the Erste Bank Open for his third straight tour­na­ment and has lost only 3 matches since the French Open.

"Ivan has ob­vi­ously helped me a lot in the pe­ri­ods we have spent with each other. The first time I have the best pe­riod of time in my ca­reer, and ob­vi­ously since Wim­ble­don it's been a great run," Mur­ray said.

Djokovic held the top spot for 122 con­sec­u­tive weeks, and 223 weeks over­all. But af­ter win­ning the French Open for the first time in June, his form has taken a dip. He lost in the third round at Wim­ble­don, and in the first round of the Olympics. At the U.S Open, he won the first set in the fi­nal but Stan Wawrinka ral­lied to beat him.

One per­son was quick to con­grat­u­late Mur­ray on Satur­day — his mother Judy.

"You've come a long way baby," Judy Mur­ray tweeted , with an old photo of the two of them on a tennis court fol­lowed by the num­ber 1 and a heart.

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