With the Australian Open just around the corner, Lewis Wright analyses Andy Murray’s chances in the tournament this year, as well as his overall prospects for the coming tennis year.
Andy Murray enters 2016 as arguably the greatest player this nation has ever seen, and yet that World Number One spot still eludes him.
With the New Year now in full flow, attentions turn to the start of the 2016 tennis calendar and more immediately to the first Grand Slam of the Year in Melbourne, Australia.
This year will make the British Number One’s 11th year in professional tennis. Since his professional debut against Jan Hernych in April 2005, Murray has achieved almost all there is to achieve in the game, and yet he still has his doubters, and is still yet to be named the best in the world.
Throughout those eleven years, there have been three reasons why Murray has never reached that Number One ranking, but not one of them has anything to do with the challenge of maintaining composure, finally winning the Australian Open final, or even improving the power on his second serve.
Instead, all three factors are largely out of Murray’s control, they are the three world-class opponents he continues to battle with today. Namely; the man who encouraged Murray to join the Sanchez-Casal academy as a teenager – Rafael Nadal, the Swiss superstar who prevented Murray lifting his first Wimbledon in 2012 – Roger Federer, and the most dominant player we have seen in men’s tennis for years – Novak Djokovic.
2015 – Murray’s best to date?
Although Andy was unable to win third Grand Slam title in 2015, it would be foolish to say that he did not achieve an incredible amount in his 10th year as a professional. Less than 12 months ago, Murray started his year in a fourth final at the Australian Open, only for Djokovic to thwart Murray’s surge that saw the Brit win the opening set comfortably.
Murray also notched his 500th career win, won his first and second clay court titles and reached the final of the French Open, all before Wimbledon. Back in London, the British Number One lifted yet another trophy at Queen’s club before sailing through to the final four at Wimbledon.
Soon after his heroic performance against France in the Davis Cup quarter-final, Murray was finally able to defeat rival Djokovic after eight straight defeats and lift the Rogers Cup. Such form continued and Murray entered the US Open draw as the 3rd ranked player in the world.
Back in a Great Britain vest, Murray put a disappointing fourth round exit at the US Open behind him as he won all three rubbers against Australia to put GB into their first Davis Cup final since 1978. Murray’s penultimate commitment of 2015 saw return to London once more for the ATP Tour Finals event in which he was able to secure his place as the World Number Two as Federer failed to overcome the daunting task of beating Djokovic in the final.
The greatest achievement of all was of course realised in Ghent, Belgium. The British team travelled for their Davis Cup final amidst security fears before its iconic top seed won continued his unbeaten year in the tournament with three more winning rubbers as Britain won back the title for the first time since 1936. Now where have we heard that date before?
Is Number One possible in 2016?
Excuse the cliché, but anything is possible. However, that does not mean it will not incredibly difficult for Murray to climb above Novak Djokovic as officially the best player on the ATP Tour.
To explain just how good Djokovic is right now, a simple glance at the world rankings will elicit the necessary information. After proving almost impregnable throughout 2015, Djokovic increased the distance between himself and the chasing pack to almost 8,000 points. Putting that into perspective, Murray and Federer sit second and third respectively, and can boast a total of 17,110 points between them, just 320 more than the Serbian has alone. And with 2,000 points awarded for a Grand Slam victory, Djokovic’s current position as world number one realistically looks unassailable for the year ahead.
With that in mind, Djokovic amassed an almost unprecedented 7200 points in 2015 from his three Grand Slam titles in Melbourne, London, and New York and his final defeat in Paris. Should Murray finally overcome the considerable hurdle of Novak Djokovic at the year opening Grand Slam, such a victory would remove the psychological barrier that many encounter when facing the Serb.
Clearly, becoming the best player in the world is something that few can achieve, and fewer still when Novak Djokovic is the player that they need to surpass. That said, if Murray can win his first Australian Open title then immediately his chances of closing the sizeable margin that exists between the two will increase, as will his confidence.