ATP World Tour Finals 2016: What does Andy Murray need to do to be the year-end No. 1?
After spending nearly 7 years in the top 4, Andy Murray this year earned the title of World No. 1 after Novak Djokovic crashed out in a straight sets quarterfinal encounter to Marin Cilic at the recently concluded BNP Paribas Masters in Paris-Bercy.
Murray, who would go on to win the title in Paris-Bercy, is now in the top spot with 11,185 points, while Djokovic is at 10,780, giving the Scot a 405-point lead. But although that seems substantial considering Djokovic’s 8,000-point lead early in the season, it is not all that much given Djokovic has a quick chance to make it up.
Djokovic is defending 1,500 points at the World Tour Finals as opposed to Murray, who is defending only 200 at this tournament as a result of his single win in the Round Robin stages of the the tournament – against David Ferrer – in 2015.
On the back of form alone, one would expect Murray to win the tournament. And he is considered the favourite to win by bookmakers too, with odds of 5/4 on him, with Djokovic’s lower at 11/8.
Murray’s next goal, now that he has in fact seized the top ranking, will be to end the year as World No. 1. After becoming the first Briton in the Open Era to even gain that ranking, he will want to set the same record as a year-end No. 1. Djokovic has held that title four times in the past, and for the past two years consecutively, which Murray will look to change.
Given that the Serb’s points deficit is still quite low, and considering the fact that he has won the year-end championships four years in a row, it is still Murray on the backfoot here in terms of making up his ranking numbers. It’s given that Djokovic will have to be on his toes to win the tournament, but here’s a look at how exactly he can get there.
Crunching the numbers
Here’s a look at the points up for grabs:
|EMIRATES ATP RANKINGS POINTS (SINGLES & DOUBLES)|
|ROUND-ROBIN MATCH WIN||200|
Best Case for all:
Murray and Djokovic win all their round-robin matches, giving them 600 points apiece. That would put them both at the top of their respective groups – Andy Murray in Group John McEnroe, and Djokovic in Group Ivan Lendl.
That means they would each play the No. 2 player in the opposite group, ostensibly setting up a final clash.
Should Djokovic go into the finals undefeated and win, he will win 1,500 points – putting him at 12,280 points. Murray would have 200 for each Round Robin match – giving him 600, plus a further 400 for a semi-final win, ergo 1000 points. That puts Murray at 12,185 points – 95 points behind Djokovic, and thus losing the title to the Serb.
Best case for Murray:
Djokovic may be struggling with form but given his draw, he is still likely to come out on top in his group. None of the other players in his group – Milos Raonic, Dominic Thiem or Gael Monfils – have ever beaten him. Although Monfils has been a bit of a thorn in Djokovic’s side, Raonic made his first Grand Slam final this year, and Thiem has steadily enjoyed a strong move up the ranks, none of them has ever had a win over the Serb.
This year, Monfils had a chance of challenging Djokovic at the US Open, but appeared to have tanked the pair’s semi-final. Should he be able to push for form, Monfils could be the one to beat Djokovic, meaning Djokovic would win 400 points in the Round Robin stage. Should he he subsequently go on to win the semi-finals and the finals, he would have 400+900, or 1,300 points at the end, giving him a total of 12,080.
If at the same time, Murray takes all three wins in his group, giving him 600 points there, and wins his semi-final but loses out on the final, he will have 1000 points in all from the tournament, putting him at 12,185 points – 105 clear of Djokovic, meaning even if Murray does not win the title, he could still retain the World No. 1 title.
That said, this might be difficult given Murray’s is the tougher draw; the Brit will be up against Marin Cilic, Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori – all of whom have been a thorn in his side over his career. To add to this, Cilic won his debut ATP 500 title at the Swiss Indoors in Basel this year, Wawrinka won his third Grand Slam title at the US Open with a win over defending champion Djokovic, and Nishikori has made a steady climb up the rankings.
It is definitely an easier draw for Djokovic this time around, but Murray has the advantage of both physical and mental form at the moment. Djokovic will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the most skilled tennis players in the history of the sport and he's still nearly an unbeatable player, but his struggles have meant that the Serb needs to build up on self-confidence – something that has always been a key factor in his game. The issue has plagued players of Djokovic’s level and calibre in the past and let them down as well, key among them Rafael Nadal.
Simply put, Djokovic will have to outplay Murray – and everyone else – at the World Tour Finals – to be able to seal the deal as World No. 1 for a third year running. But it’s looking a lot like Andy Murray’s year to do it and break yet another milestone.