The Road to London
Before the tennis some more Doctor Who.
This post contains some details of the season 9 episode ‘Heaven Sent’. It is a truly epic episode, featuring a tour de force performance from Peter Capaldi.
In short the Doctor realises that the way to escape from a prison especially designed for him, is to repeat to same day over and over again, Each day he dies, but is teleported back to relive the day, before regenerating. Each day he punches a wall made from Azbantium, a mineral 400 times harder than diamond. He starts to break away at it with his fist. Like a drip of water on solid stone, eventually, after over four billion years of being killed over and over again, the wall is now weakened and he breaks through.
The remaining months of the season must have seemed like that for Andy.
Tournament after tournament, match after match, set after set, point after point, Andy chipped away at Novak’s World #1 ranking and his lead in the race to be #1 for the season.
First there was the small matter of defending the Davis Cup. Andy put everything into it but lost the opening singles against Juan Martín del Potro in five sets. After GB lost the second singles as well, he teamed up with his brother Jamie to beat del Potro and Leonardo Mayer in four sets, before winning the the first of the reverse singles in straight sets, though Great Britain eventually lost the tie.
Andy then won his fifth title of 2016 the China Open.
Then he won the Shanghai Rolex Masters, for title number six for the year.
Murray extended his winning streak to 15 consecutive match wins by winning the Erste Bank Open, (tour title 7 for 2016, 42 overall)
The absence of Novak from these tournaments meant that Andy entered the Paris Masters with the situation finely poised. If Novak didn’t reach the final and Andy could win he would have achieved the near impossible of overtaking Novak and becoming world #1. Incredibly Marin Cilic beat Novak in the quarterfinals whilst Andy marched on, shot after shot before defeating John Isner in the final.
Andy Murray was #1. The first Brit ever and the oldest #1 for the first time, since John Newcombe in 1974.
But it is never that simple for our Andy. There remained the small matter of the showpiece year ending finals at the O2 arena in London.
To stay at #1 and be ranked the season #1, Andy had to do better than Novak. The draw was made for the two groups.
Andy was in a group with Stan Warwrinka (2016 US Open winner), Kai Nishikori (who beat Andy in the US Open) and Marin Cilic (who beat Novak the week before).
Novak was in a group with Milos Raonic (runner up at Wimbledon), Gael Monfils (er… He’s French) and Dominic Thiem (who? He actually finished as number 9, but Rafa Nadal withdrew to injury.)
Novak beat Thiem 6-7 6-0 6-2, Andy beat Cilic 6-3,6-2.
Novak beat Raonic 7-6,7-6, Andy beat Nishikori 6-7,6-4,6-4 in just under three and half hours the longest three set match at the ATP finals ever.
Novak beat David Goffin (a sub for the injured Monfils) 6-1,6-2, Andy beat Warwrinka 6-4,6-2.
Semifinal time. Andy beat Raonic 5-7,7-6,7-6 in just over three and a half hours the new longest three set match at the ATP finals ever. Novak beat Nishikori 6-1,6-1 in 66 minutes.
Incidentally I can only think of two things worse than Andy playing for the best part of 4 hours. Losing to Andy after nearly 4 hours and watching Andy, willing him on to win the roller coaster of a match. Oh wait! Even worse is watching etc while your PD is making you shake like a leaf!
And so it came to pass: Andy v Novak – the winner would be #1. The experts all agreed that those two marathon matches had taken its toll on Andy, surely Novak would win and retake the #1 spot.
Andy started with a double fault… But holds serve.
Brilliance and resilience …
A break! For Andy!! He wins the first set 6-3.
The unbelievable is on. A break for Andy! Another break for Andy!!
Novak hasn’t been #1 for 122 weeks by giving up. He stages a comeback and gets a break back. Andy holds his nerve and he wins the second set 6-4.
So Andy Murray is #1 in the world, #1 for 2016, finished the season with 25 successive wins and in so doing, becoming the first player to win Grand Slam, ATP World Tour Finals, Olympic Games and Masters 1000 titles in the same calendar year. He also became a Dad.
And his brother Jamie and his doubles partner Bruno Soares are the #1 Mens Doubles team.
Not bad for two lads from Dunblane a town with about 9,000 residents
The title of these three posts is a tribute to Andy’s go to post match interview adjective as in ‘Milos played unbelievable tennis’, or ‘Novak had an unbelievable start to the season’.