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China Open: Andy Murray sets his sights on No. 1 ranking

591   //    03 Oct 2016, 13:37 IST

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 21: Andy Murray of Scotland takes a breather during the doubles match between Andy Murray and Jamie Murray of Scotland and Tim Henman of England and Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria at Andy Murray Live presented by SSE at the SSE Hydro on September 21, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images for Andy Murray Live)

The 2016 season has been one of the most consistent of Andy Murray’s career. The entire season was dotted with memorable moments for the Scot where he won his second Wimbledon title, his second Olympic gold medal, reached finals of two other Grand Slams and even defeated the World No. 1 Novak Djokovic for the Rome Masters crown. He also reunited with his former mentor Ivan Lendl who was instrumental in turning Murray into a Grand Slam champion back in 2012.

With oodles of confidence in his game right now, it is only natural that the World No. 2 will be eager to tick off the boxes that are still empty on his resume.  Three of his greatest rivals – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – the three who make up the rest of the famed ‘Big Four’, have all ascended to the top of the rankings, something Murray is yet to achieve.

During a media interaction at the China Open, the 29-year-old has expressed his intentions to hunt down the No. 1 ranking. He is still 2,055 points behind the Serb in the ATP Race to London which determines the year-to-date points.

But Murray wanting to bid for the top spot doesn’t really sound that unrealistic anymore given how dodgy Djokovic’s performances have been in recent times. The Serb has won just one title since clinching the elusive French Open title and lost in three tournaments. He is a six-time winner of the China Open but an elbow injury has forced him to opt out of the tournament, thus facilitating the way for Murray to become the top seed at this event.

It is indeed a farcry from the stunning fashion in which the No. 1 had started his 2016 season. He looked seemingly invincible in the first six months as he kept on ratcheting up wins everywhere that awarded him as many as six titles which included two Slams.

With the 12-time Major winner appearing so inconsistent in the past few weeks, there is no doubt that Murray’s chances now look more promising than ever.

And the Scot too feels so after what, according to him, has been his ‘best season to date’.

“I think obviously trying to reach No. 1 is a goal,” revealed Murray.

“I think most of the players that are near the top of the game would like that. I’ve never been there. It’s something I would like to do for the first time, which is maybe more of a motivation for me than some of the guys that have been there before,” explained the three-time Grand Slam champion.

Murray top seed and Nadal second at China Open

Being the top seed, pressure will be tremendous for Murray at the China Open. He has never won this ATP 500 tournament in the two times he played at Beijing prior to this. And this time too, his path is not easy.

He kicks off his challenge against the former World No. 18 Andreas Seppi.  His semi-final opponent can be one between Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem or the veteran fifth seed David Ferrer. Zverev recently upset the US Open champion Stan Wawrinka for his maiden ATP Tour title at St. Petersburg and can make it a tough one for Murray.

In the final, the Briton can come up against the 2005 champion and second seed Rafael Nadal or the third seed Milos Raonic. Rafa is still making his way back to the top echelons of the game after a wrist injury kept him out for two months right before the Rio Olympics. The Spaniard, however, does perform well in this Chinese city and reached the final twice in the last three editions. That perhaps might not be music to Murray’s ears.

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A freelance journalist based in Kolkata who is a diehard Rafael Nadal fan. She is also extremely passionate about India’s progress in sports and hopes to throw light on India’s unsung sports heroes through her articles. When not screaming her lungs out in support of her favourite sports stars, she can be seen reading, watching movies or immersed in planning her next travel destination!
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