Ignore rankings, ignore the past and focus on the present. Long gone is the mentally weak, sour faced competitor of years ago but in his place is the emergence of a superstar, a man who some would argue is the greatest British athlete of all time. After years of false optimism and never ending disappointment delivered via Tim Henman Britain turned to a youngster from Dumblane to restore glory back to British tennis. Andy Murray was this man and after early signs of teenage promise it was evident that the weight of expectation thrust upon Murray was too much for him to comprehend. Britain demanded Wimbledon titles and grand slams from Andy but when he could only deliver lacklustre performances in semi finals and the occasional final many wrote him off as another failure, incapable of bringing any true prestige back to British tennis.
However, when many thought they had seen the best of Andy Murray, 2012 marked the emergence of a true tennis legend. Firstly a narrow defeat to Roger Federer in the 2012 Wimbledon final was followed by an Olympic gold medal in London a matter of months later defeating his conqueror Federer in the gold medal match. This showed a side of Murray no one had seen before, the ability to learn from his mistakes, work on them and then put them into practice in a big match. 2012 only got better for Murray as it seen him do what no British player had done for 78 years and capture a grand slam title. This proved that Murray was now a force to be reckoned with in the world of tennis and more than capable of beating top players in big matches.
The meteoric rise of Andy Murray from 2012 onwards has been nothing short of magnificent however. In the last 4 years Andy has won his career ambition of a Wimbledon title not once but twice, he has also won 4 Masters 1000 titles, the first Davis cup for Britain since 1936 and also became the first man to retain his Olympic gold medal in the recent Rio Olympics. Yet he is still only world number 2. This is due to the severe brilliance of Novak Djokovic who has matched what Murray has won in the last 4 years and more. Novak has won 7 grand slams in that time and 19 Masters 1000 titles and beating Murray in the final of 6 of them. The excellence of Novak Djokovic was simply dazzling to watch and showed no signs of slowing down until very recently.
For the first time in years Djokovic is looking very ordinary. Starting in the Wimbledon 4th round Djokovic suffered a loss to American Sam Querrey in 4 sets and most recently losing in straight sets to Juan Martin Del Potro in the opening round of the Olympics. Djokovic’s form has been stagnant to say the least whereas Murray has been soaring. Before the Roland Garros final on the 5th of June Djokovic was 3,225 points ahead of world number 2 Andy Murray. However, after a string of 22 consecutive wins and lacklustre performances from Djokovic since then we have seen the gap reduced to 1,215 points. In result, this means if Murray can win the upcoming US open without Djokovic reaching the final then he will be world number 1 for the first time in his career.
To recap, over the last 2 months Andy Murray has been relentless and a fully fit Murray looks even too strong for Djokovic. The tennis world lacks credible challengers for Grand Slams and especially for the upcoming US open. This is shown by Federer and Nadal slowly fading into the background and the big hitters such as Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic too inconsistent to be realistic contenders. This leaves an inform Andy Murray coming off the greatest winning streak of his life and a somewhat deflated Novak Djokovic struggling for form and battling inner turmoil following an emotional loss at the Olympics in Rio. It is clear right now that Andy Murray is the best player in the world but it seems to be only a matter of time until that is reflected in the rankings and clear for all to see.
Blog by Sam Stewart for 360 Sports Consultancy