Andy Murray has secured his place as world number one for the first time in his career, with his incredible efforts over the last few months taking him ahead of Novak Djokovic as we head into the final tournament of the year. Claiming the top ranking looked uncertain this week as it depended on Djokovic losing before the semi-finals this week at the BNP Paribas Masters, but with a quarterfinal exit for the Serb and a run to the final for Murray, he becomes the twenty-sixth man and the first ever Brit to take the top spot since rankings began.
At the beginning of the year, it looked unlikely that anyone would knock Djokovic from the world number one spot as the Serb won the Australian Open, with Murray being runner-up for the fifth time. The Brit's confidence started to soar around the clay court season, taking the title in Rome with a convincing win over Djokovic in the final. A first Roland Garros final followed for Murray, and after suffering a heartbreaking loss, he bounced back and went on the best run of his career.
A twenty-two match win streak saw Murray claim his fifth title at the Aegon Championships, a third Grand Slam crown at Wimbledon and a second Olympic gold medal in Rio. After an incredible effort and unbeaten grass season, Murray still sat well behind Djokovic in the rankings. A first Grand Slam title in three years seen Murray's confidence reach new heights and he continued his charge in the week after Rio where he made the final at the Western and Southern Open. A couple of tough five-set losses followed in the quarterfinals of the US Open and the Davis Cup to Kei Nishikori and Juan Martin del Potro respectively, but Murray then went on another incredible run and hasn't lost a match since. The Brit dominated the Asian swing, picking up titles in Beijing and Shanghai and continued his impressive form into the indoor hard courts where he took the title in Vienna for the second time and secured his place in the final of this week's BNP Paribas Masters, where he will play John Isner for a shot at his fourth straight title and eighth of the year.
Finishing on a high
With the ATP World Tour Finals still to come, the number one ranking is still in play. Djokovic could reclaim the top spot in London but Murray could secure a decent 405 point lead heading into the final tournament of the year if he wins the title in Paris. Murray doesn't have the best record at the year-end championships but hasn't really been able to play his best there over the past couple of years for a number of reasons.
In 2013, the Brit couldn't play as he was having back surgery. In 2014 during his recovery from the surgery, Murray had to make an exhausting last minute run just to qualify and in turn paid the price. Last year the Brit had his sights set on the following week's Davis Cup final and was practicing on clay during the World Tour Finals to be prepared.
This year Murray goes into the year-end championships in the best form of his career. With the year-end number one ranking at play and no distractions to hurt his concentration, there is no reason that Murray couldn't extend his winning streak and make his mark at the O2 Arena. Murray is unbeaten in London this year already with 12 wins on home soil and with the opportunity to end a career-best season on such a high, the world number one will be motivated to stay ahead into the beginning of next season. Whether he ends the season at number one or number two, the heroic effort to get to this point right now will always be remembered as an inspiring moment in the sport's history.