Up until this year I was always a bit cynical of the existence of the ‘Big 4’ in men’s tennis. In my mind, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic were a cut above the rest in the men’s game and had quite comfortably been the three best players of the past decade. They were rarely challenged other than by each other. Then there was Andy Murray. Sure, Murray had produced some great results over a number of years; he had even won Grand Slams. But he always seemed to struggle against the three big names, particularly in Grand Slams.
For me, all this changed after Wimbledon this year. Andy Murray’s second half of 2016 has been quite phenomenal. He backed up his second Wimbledon title with a second Olympic Gold Medal. In addition to these feats, Murray has claimed 3 out of the possible 8 Masters Series titles this year. I was previously critical of Murray for being too passive with his tennis. Since he re-appointed Ivan Lendl as his coach earlier this year, he has become far more aggressive. He goes after his shots, is more attacking in his mindset and has improved his serve significantly. This in addition to his already brilliant court speed, fitness and return of serve have made him a complete player.
Years of persistence have paid off for Murray and he is now a deserving World Number 1. He joins just 25 other professionals who have been crowned the worlds best since the current ranking system was devised in 1973; this includes the likes of Borg, McEnroe, Connors, Lendl, Edberg, Becker, Sampras, Agassi, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. It’s an illustrious group of names, and he joins them. It was only a few months back when it seemed that Novak Djokovic was destined for a record-breaking period at the top spot, but a dramatic slump in his form, the absence of Federer and Nadal and some superb tennis from Murray has seen him take the top spot against the tide. It has been a terrific effort and there should now be no doubt that he belongs in the ‘Big 4’ – no questions asked.
Murray will look to cap off a wonderful year when he partakes in next week’s ATP World Tour Finals in front of his home crowd in London. Whilst this will be his 8th appearance at the Finals, he has never progressed beyond the semi-final. Given his current form, the stage is perfectly set for him to take a famous victory, consolidate his position at the top of the sport and finish off a great year in the best way possible.