Don't blame Andy Murray for becoming the top manNovember 08, 2016

Milos Raonic was supposed to be Andy Murray's semifinal opponent at the BNP Paribas Masters last Saturday, but a leg injury gave the Scotsman a free passage into the finals. He became the 26th man to ascend the summit of the ATP rankings. How would Murray fare from the past top players? He would be better than the likes of Juan Carlos Ferrero. On the other hand, he has yet to reach the heights that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal once occupied not long ago. But it could happen in a few years.

Tennis could be a strange sport, and it happened at the Bercy Arena. Marin Čilić, who haven't beaten Novak Djokovic in their past fourteen meetings, knocked out the top-seeded Serbian in straight sets in the quarterfinals. It opened the door for Murray. John Isner, who lost to Čilić in their first six matches, found luck in number seven. But the American must be given credit for a week-long display of fine tennis. Isner gave Murray everything he had in the finals, making sure that consolidating the top spot would be harder than getting there.

Andy Murray has unfinished business

Murray, who has his best season this year, is not yet done. As far as the player of the year honors would be concerned, it could be decided in the ATP World Tour Finals. Djokovic would make it (for the fifth time) if he won all his matches in the round-robin stage and retain his ATP World Tour Finals title. Murray, on the other hand, has not progressed beyond the semifinals. As he admitted (during the interview), he has yet to excel in the O2 Arena. What are the chances of both players?

The eight players are divided into groups of two, which are named in honor of John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl. (McEnroe won the season-ending event on three occasions, while Lendl was a five-time champion.) Murray will head the John McEnroe Group, where he will play Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, and Marin Čilić. Djokovic will be in the Ivan Lendl Group, where he will play Milos Raonic, Gaël Monfils, and Dominic Thiem. On paper, Murray might encounter more difficulty in his passage to the semifinals. Then again, anything can happen in the round-robin stage. Furthermore, Raonic's injury can be part of the equation. If he doesn't recover in time, then Tomáš Berdych will fill in his place. There's no doubt that Djokovic won't have any trouble reaching the knockout stage.

A Murray-Djokovic finals may not happen, as the defending champion might go out in the semifinals. Čilić, who will make his second appearance in the season-ending event, will be the dark horse of the tournament. (Wawrinka's form has been inconsistent since his US Open victory while Čilić has Nishikori's numbers.) He could be Murray's opponent in the finals.

What will Murray's ascension mean?

Murray has yet to win the ATP World Tour Finals, and this year will be his best chance. The home crowd will help him. He has been the runner-up of the Australian Open in five occasions, and he can win the elusive Norman Brookes Challenge Cup next year. The Scotsman is the second-oldest player to become number one (after John Newcombe), which will make his critics predict his short stay on the top. But Murray's career is a fine example of patience, resilience, and determination. He may be the greatest British sportsman of his generation.

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