In an era of supreme virtuosity, Andy Murray’s treacherous and at times excruciating ascent to the summit of men’s tennis has been the remuneration of complete sacrifice and ultimate dedication. To get past the imperial majesty of Roger Federer, the combatant fortitude of Rafael Nadal and now the relentless winning machine of Novak Djokovic is an incomparable feat that deserves to be flagged at the peak of the mountain that he had to climb to get there.
With a barely-believable 43 Grand Slam crowns and 82 Masters titles between them, the trio have already established themselves as three of the greatest players in the history of the game. It is testament to the British number one that he not just been able to survive this decade of dominance, but his astonishing endurance and will to win has meant that he been able to outlast them all.
His triumph at the ATP World Finals only served to epitomise the scale of what Dunblane’s hero has had to go through to reach his position of invincibility overlooking the rest of the tennis landscape. He has prevailed in every one of his last 24 matches and last week alone he defied exhaustion from his three hour, 38 minutes semi-final slugfest against world number three Milos Raonic to sweep past second-ranked Djokovic in the final with an unerring aplomb to cap off the finest campaign in his career thus far.
So for just how long can Murray keep his place on top of the world? This is new territory, another façade that the two-time Wimbledon champion is yet to confront. His game has often mirror-imaged his positioning in the standings – always in the chasing pack, but rarely able to run away with the coveted prize.
Even though he will now become the hunted, Murray’s road in 2017 will still be like every other road he has encountered – a demanding one engulfed by challenges, obstacles and without question a hungrier Djokovic who is still likely to remain his closest challenger.
Six defeats in eight Grand Slam finals tell its own story. But this is a different Andy Murray. A new breed instilled with the cold-hearted brilliance that he has often the victim of. It has been a long road to get there, but now it is time to cement his own legacy as a tennis great. 2016 was a great year, but 2017 could be even greater…