Murray cements No.1 spot with O2 win
Originally published on 20/11/16 00:00
Murray underlined his status as the best player in the world as he denied Djokovic a fifth consecutive title in London with a clinical 6-3 6-4 victory at the O2 Arena, ending the year on a 24-match winning streak.
The three-time Grand Slam champion dethroned Djokovic at the top of the rankings a fortnight ago, but defeat for Murray would have seen the Serb return to the top spot and end the year as No.1 for a fifth time in six years. However, in a true test of character, Murray defeated his rival for only the third time since the 2013 Wimbledon final to make history on Sunday.
"It's very special playing against Novak in a match like this, we've played Grand Slam finals and Olympic finals before, but I am very happy to win and to be world No.1 is very special," said Murray. "It is something I never expected."
Some of the biggest moments in Murray's career have come on home soil; two Wimbledon Championships, an Olympic gold medal at London 2012 and now a first ATP World Tour Finals title and with it a world No.1 year-end ranking.
With so much at stake, Murray showed signs of early nerves as he served two double faults in the opening game, but he managed to hang on and keep his nose ahead in the early stages.
Despite Murray’s failure to win a point on Djokovic’s serve in the opening two games, it was the Scot who got the first look at a break, but despite a missed smash on game point, Djokovic managed to hang on for 3-3. But Murray was rewarded for his positive play, breaking for a 5-3 lead before serving out the opening set.
In his ten previous wins against Djokovic, Murray had always won the first set, but he had taken the opener against the Serb in the French Open final before Djokovic had roared back to win a 12th major title at Roland Garros. However, since completing his career Grand Slam, Djokovic has not been the dominant force he was earlier in the year, while Murray has lost just three matches since that encounter in Paris.
Murray’s confidence was evident as he broke Djokovic in the first game of the second set to take a stranglehold on the match. Djokovic snapped a run of five straight games from Murray, but the top seed broke once again for a 4-1 lead. With the finish line in sight, Murray let his advantage slip as Djokovic started swinging freely, breaking back for 4-2 before a love service game to ask questions of Murray.
With Murray (9hr56m) having spent more than three hours on court longer on court than Djokovic (6hr33m) after two marathon matches against Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic this week, a third set would have perhaps favoured Djokovic, but the world No.1 held his nerve, serving out to seal victory after an hour and 43 minutes.