For the first time since February 1, 2004 – a span of 666 weeks – tennis will have a No. 1 player other than Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic.
In a stunning comeback from a midyear rankings deficit in which he barely had half the points of Djokovic, three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray deposed the reigning No. 1 this weekend in Paris, making history as the first British man to hit the top spot, breaking up the stranglehold on the position by the Big Three and, more personally, setting a lifelong goal by getting to the apex of his sport.
After months of high-quality tennis, the coup was anticlimactic and bloodless as Murray hit No. 1 on Saturday when Milos Raonic withdrew from their semifinal match in Paris, thus giving Murray enough points to pass Djokovic, who'd lost in Friday's quarterfinals.
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It was impossible to fathom on the morning of June 6 that the year would end with anyone but Djokovic atop the rankings for the fifth time in six years. He'd just completed the career Grand Slam by winning the French Open (defeating Murray in the final), became the first man since Jim Courier in 1992 to win the first two legs of the calendar Slam and held a staggering 16,950 to 8,915-point lead in the rankings.
Then Murray went on the hottest run of his career, playing nine tournaments, making the finals of eight and winning seven, while Djokovic went into a bizarre slump kicked off by a third-round loss at Wimbledon to American Sam Querrey, his worst performance in a major in seven years. Since winning at Roland Garros, the Serb made just two tournament finals (winning a Masters 1000 in Toronto and losing the U.S. Open final to Stan Wawrinka). And, though it didn't count in the rankings this year, Djokovic lost in the first round of the Olympics in an admittedly tough matchup with former Grand Slam champion Juan Martin Del Potro. Murray won gold.
Murray, who's exactly one week older than Djokovic, first hit No. 2 in 2009 but spent the last seven years bouncing around the top four of the rankings, looking up at various iterations of the Big Three, even as the media tried to make it a Big Four.
Does the ascension to No. 1 bolster Murray's case? It has to. Even though he has just one more Slam title than Wawrinka, his three Slam titles in 11 finals appearances, the Olympic gold and finally hitting No. 1 might be enough to officially join the unofficial club.
Murray can't get too comfortable, however. Djokovic can still finish as year-end No. 1 if he goes 5-0 at next week's ATP World Tour Finals, which begins with a three-match round robin and ends with a four-man knockout tournament.