T365 Recall: When Andy Murray reached his zenith and toppled the Big Three to become world No 1

T365 Recall
Andy Murray ATP Finals champion 2016

This week marked four years since Andy Murray became world No 1 and it is only right that we look back at his glorious 2016 season when he reached the peak of his career.

The year 2012 will always be remembered as the year Murray ended his wait for a Grand Slam trophy while 2013 will live long in the memory as he ended Great Britain’s 77-year drought for Wimbledon title. However, 2016 was the year where he truly made his mark as a tennis great.

He may not have tasted Grand Slam success in 2015, but his career was on an upward trajectory as he finished the year as the world No 2.

However, it was a case of déjà vu at the Australian Open as he made it to the final only to lose to Novak Djokovic again as he was on the end of a 1–6, 5–7, 6–7 (3–7) defeat. It was the fourth time in six years that Murray had been beaten by the Serb in the Melbourne final.

He didn’t really get going over the next two months as he suffered early losses at the Sunshine Double, but his form finally picked up during the clay-court season as he reached the semi-final of the Monte Carlo Masters, losing in three sets to Rafael Nadal.

He finally got the better of Nadal at the Madrid Open as he beat the King of Clay in straight sets to reach the final only to finish runner-up to that man Djokovic again.

It was a case of third time lucky as he got the breakthrough in the Italian Open final and broke the psychological barrier by beating No 1 Djokovic in two sets.

Andy Murray 2016 Italian Open

“I’ve had great preparation now going into the French Open,” he said. “I have played against Rafa a couple of times, Novak a couple of times. You know, not won all of the matches, but competed extremely well even in the ones I have lost.

“[I’m] going to Roland Garros with a lot of confidence. Over best of five, as well, takes a little bit more physical and mental strength.”

And he needed all that physical and mental strength at Roland-Garros as he was involved in three five-setters, two four-setters and two three-setters.

Defending champion Stan Wawrinka stood in his way of a maiden French Open final and it was the Brit who won 6–4, 6–2, 4–6, 6–2 to set up a final against his nemesis Djokovic.

The Serb again got the better of him as he won 6–3, 1–6, 2–6, 4–6.

Murray kicked off his grass-court season by successfully defending his Queen’s Club Championship, beating Milos Raonic in the final.

It was all set up for him to go on another magical run at Wimbledon. And he truly delivered as he breezed into the quarter-finals with four three-set wins. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga provided his stiffest test in the last four, but he still won 7–6 (12–10), 6–1, 3–6, 4–6, 6–1.

Raonic was again his opponent in the final and again the Canadian lost as the Brit won at SW19 for a second time with a 6–4, 7–6 (7–3), 7–6 (7–2).

“This is the most important tournament for me every year. I’ve had some great moments here and some tough losses,” he said.

“I’m glad to get my hands on the trophy again.”

A few weeks later he was off to Rio and he went where no man had gone before: winning back-to-back Olympic singles gold medals. Juan Martín del Potro from Argentina stood between him and another gold medal, but claimed a comfortable 7–5, 4–6, 6–2, 7–5 victory.

His unbeaten run came to an end in the final of the Cincinnati Masters where he lost in two sets against Marin Cilic, while his US Open campaign was halted by Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals.

But there was still plenty of glory to come as finished the year on a high by winning the final five tournaments he entered namely the China Open, Shanghai Masters, Vienna Open, Paris Masters and ATP World Tour Finals.

At the Paris Masters he became world No 1 for the first time in his career when he reached final after Milos Raonic withdrew from the semi-final.

“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.”

After spending 76 consecutive weeks at No 2, Murray finally managed to get past the Big Three of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.

“It’s been such a difficult thing to do because of how good the guys around me have been, the guys ahead of me,” he said.

“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.”

Of course he went on to win the Paris Masters title as he beat American John Isner 6–3, 6–7 (4–7), 6–4.

His end-of-season form meant he was the overwhelming favourite to win the ATP Tour Finals in London, but he had the added pressure of needing to win the title to finish the year as the No 1.

Murray, though, delivered as he beat Djokovic 6–3, 6–4 in the final to finish off a truly magnificent campaign on a high.

In total he won nine tournaments (Wimbledon, ATP Tour Finals, Rome Masters, Shanghai Masters, Paris Masters, Rio Olympics, Queen’s Club Championships, China Open, Vienna Open) and finished runner-up at three events (Australian Open, French Open, Madrid Masters, Cincinnati Masters) for a 78-9 (89.7%) record.

But his mother Judy’s tweet summed it all up best.

He ended up spending 41 consecutive weeks at the top of the world rankings.

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