In a career crammed with ‘firsts’ this must rank near the top for Andy Murray. The first Brit to rank as World Number one and the 26thplayer overall. The fact that Murray is also the oldest first-timer since John Newcombe in 1974 only further cements his longevity to hang in there whilst time ravages on the Golden Era’s more senior members.
Understand that by this I do not mean Murray has simply benefitted from being younger, and that only now that Federer and Nadal are past their prime and Novak’s level, desire and self-beleief have all been called into question that the Scot can inherit that throne at the top of the game.
Whilst there is a modicum of truth in those facts, the notion is rubbished when you consider Andy has had seven stints at World number 2 since 2009. Amidst injury and the undeniable, always-relevant expectation that Britain places on its sporting heroes that has placed extra hurdles in the way of Andy’s rise.
In truth, it is nothing more than his recent form has merited. Since the first Lendl era, Murray has rightfully sat at the table with Novak, Rafa and Roger, he has belonged and would’ve mopped up yet more accolades if not for a few tiny different outcomes. But this season has seen such a marked improvement yet again (77-11 W/L ratio and 7 titles from 11 finals) that it really is no surprise that the milestone has been reached when it has.
What matters now of course, is the future – and I cannot see any other outcome than continued dominance of the game for the Scot.
Federer and Nadal are no longer able to challenge and Djokovic remains so fragile compared to when he was in his pomp that it will be Murray now who will enter those match-ups feeling superior and Novak I fancy will see those self-depreciating doubts plague his match-mind.
The Australian Open should topple first – and after so many finals, it will be a huge relief for Andy, but Paris will feel all the sweeter as – for so many greats – it remained elusive.
Who else can challenge Andy now for the next half-generation? Stanimal remains an enigma but capable of the odd upset but never a sustained challenge, the jury is out on Nishikori, Pouille, Goffin and Thiem.
It really is too late now for the likes of Monfils, Berdych, Ferrer, Tsonga and Cilic to mount a semi-serious assault on the tour. Del Potro is another fascinating question mark.
In years gone by I would have balked at the prospect facing the men’s tour in the next few years: Murray dominance and the decline of aggressive, technique laden tennis to the history books, but I will embrace this brave new world and relish the challenges ahead for the game’s new undisputed king.