When the 2016 tennis season began not too many could have imagined it finishing the way it did. Unlike recent years when single players have been overwhelming, 2016 has been a tale of two players. Novak Djokovic dominated the first half, Andy Murray the second half.
Murray won Wimbledon then the Olympic gold medal and in a six week period won five tournaments including the Shanghai Rolex Masers for a third time and culminated things with his first ATP World Tour Finals. He won a Tour high nine titles from 13 finals and got on a career best win streak of 24 matches.
And things did not stop there because on top of all that he became the only the 17th man to secure the prestigious year-end World No.1 ranking.
Murray defeated Djokovic who was trying to win the World Tour Finals for a record equalling sixth time and be year-end World No.1 for the fifth time and third year in a row. After one hour 42 minutes of play Murray had his arms full with silverware, winning 6-3, 6-4.
“I don’t know if ‘satisfaction’ is the right word,” Murray said. “I mean it was obviously a big, big match against someone who I’ve played so many big matches against in my career. That would be my main rival really throughout my career.
“We played in all of the slam finals, Olympics, obviously here now, and a match to finish the year No. 1. We played in loads of Masters Series finals, as well, and are one week apart in age. It was obviously a big match, a very important win for me. It was just a huge match to finish the year, to try and obviously finish No. 1. Obviously this is a major event, as well, and one I’ve not done well in in the past. So it’s been a great week.”
Despite the fact that Murray has been the dominant figure since July and has finished on such a high, it does not mean for one minute that Djokovic is going away, not at all; 2017 promises to be fascinating as the two most prominent players play cat and mouse.
“Even though I set a high standard for myself, especially the last couple years, I’m very grateful to have had the career that I’ve had,” Djokovic said. “But sometimes it’s just normal, I guess, to experience, to live these kind of things, not to have the half seasons as well as you want them to be, as well as they’ve been in the last three, four years.
“There were things I could have done better on the court. I know that. It was also a tough season considering there were Olympic Games. I’ve just been through so much emotions in the first six months with Roland Garros in place. I needed some time to really take it all in, digest it. But I didn’t have that time. I had to be a few weeks later on the court right away. I guess that all had its toll.”
This was the first time since points were allocated to the season-ending championship in 1990 that the year-end No.1 ranking came down to the very last match of the regular season between the world’s two leading protagonists. Incredibly, it is the first time in twelve years that a player other than Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal have ended the year No.1.
“I would like to try and stay there, obviously,” Murray said. “It’s taken a huge effort the last five, six months to get there. I would obviously like to stay there. I’m aware that’s going to be extremely difficult because I had a great year this year (and) I only managed to do it by one match. To repeat that again next year is going to be extremely difficult.
“But now that I’ve got there, I obviously would be motivated to try and stay in that position. But yeah, I mean, the majors are what gets me working hard and what really, really motivates me. When I go away in December to train, I’m training with the Australian Open in mind.”
For both, time off is all that really motivates them now and not being at a tournament. Battery recharging and spending quality time with young families is all that is on their minds. Certainly Murray will be relishing what he has achieved, nine titles from 13 events and that World No.1 ranking.
While Andy is the focus of attention, it would be amiss not to recognise the outstanding achievements of his brother Jamie who with Bruno Soares celebrated being the No.1 doubles team in the world. It’s something that’s never been done before by two brothers in the same year.
The doubles title was won by Henri Kontinen, the first Finn ever to play the season-ending championship, and John Peers who were finalists at the Shanghai Rolex Masters. Peers became the first Australian since Todd Woodbrigde and Mark Woodforde in 1996 to win this crown. They defeated South African Raven Klaasen and American Rajeev Ram 2-6, 6-1, 10-8.