Andy Murray’s rise to the top of world tennis was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication but 2014 has arguably been his hardest year of all. Having seemed certain to miss out on this year’s ATP Tour finals in London (so certain, in fact, that he was not included in the giant posters advertising the event) the Brit has gone on one of the most remarkable winning runs in recent times and enters the tournament in some of his best ever form. The 27 year old’s form is reflected in his odds and he is now third favourite for the event with Betfair offering a tempting 7/1 on an outright win.
Fall from Grace
When defeated by Novak Djokovic at the quarter final stage of the US Open back in September Murray dropped down to 12th in the World rankings. This was the first time he had been out of the top 10 since 2008 and, having started 2014 up at 4th in the rankings, was an indication of just how far he had fallen and what a significant impact the back surgery that he had at the end of last year had made on his form. At this stage many players would holed up for winter, got back on the practice courts and attempted to come back stronger than ever in 2015…but not Murray. He decided to embark on a punishing schedule of tournament play in a last ditch attempt to secure enough ranking points to re-enter the top nine (Rafael Nadal has withdrawn due to appendix surgery so his spot will go to the ninth ranked man).
Murray’s decision to enter six tournaments in six weeks ahead of the ATP Tour Finals saw him take on his most hectic schedule since his early days on the tour as an 18 year old but his gamble paid off and his place in London is secured. Unbelievably the Brit won three of the six tournaments- first taking the Shenzhen Open (his first title in 14 months), then the Vienna Open and finally the Valencia Open. In the process of winning the finals in both Valencia and Shenzhen he saw off five match points against the luckless Tommy Robredo of Spain demonstrating that his old steel and determination is well and truly back.
Aiming for Hat-Trick
Before winning the Shenzhen Open title, Murray’s last tournament victory had been at Wimbledon back in 2013. His victory over Novak Djokovic in the final delivered the first British men’s singles champion since Fred Perry in 1936 and came hot on the heels of his impressive win at the 2012 Olympics. Since that famous victory Murray has switched coaches, moving from Ivan Lendl to Amelie Mauresmo in June, and has undergone surgery to resolve a disc problem in his back forcing him to miss last year’s ATP Tour Finals event. For the man from Dunblane, victory in London would complete a memorable hat-trick of home wins and would prove many of his doubters wrong.
Man to Beat
Despite Murray’s impressive form, a win in London is still hard to envisage, with the world’s best players all vying for one of the sport’s biggest prizes. Novak Djokovic, who beat Murray comprehensively in Paris last week, will be desperate to hold on to his title and he looks to be the man to beat. Thankfully Murray has avoided the Serb in the group stages, being drawn alongside Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic, but if he is to win his first ever ATP Tour finals title then he looks certain to have to beat the 27 year old at some stage. If he could do that then there would be no doubting whatsoever that he was back to his best.