Andy Murray celebrated his elevation to world No1 by winning the Paris Masters in three tense sets against John Isner here on Sunday, extending his lead over Novak Djokovic at the top of the rankings to a slender 405 points.
But, ever the realist, he knows that might not be a plump enough cushion on which to rest his new crown for very long.
If Djokovic overcomes the disturbing ennui that enveloped him when he fell in the quarter-finals at Bercy on Friday and recovers from a lingering injury to his right arm to win every match and hold his title at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, starting next Monday, he will resume a reign that had stretched to 122 weeks. It is Murray’s fresh challenge, after beating Isner 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4 in the final, to ensure that does not happen.
“I want to keep going,” Murray said courtside. “It’s been a great year and I want to finish as well as I can. I’m not so much thinking about finishing as the world No1. I just want to play well at the O2. I’ve not always played well there and I want to do myself justice. I’ll get a few days’ rest now.”
Complicating the equation, however, Murray will lose 275 points after the Finals, because Great Britain failed to retain the Davis Cup they won last November. One way he can hold Djokovic at bay is to beat him in the O2 final; it would be the perfect finish to what has been the best season of his career.
For now the Scot wants to enjoy the high point of a journey that began 11 years ago and which he dare not contemplate until it was sealed in bizarre circumstances after Milos Raonic’s late withdrawal from their semi-final with a quad injury on Saturday. Murray did not need to win the title to retain his newly acquired ranking, as he had a slender five-point lead over Djokovic, but losing has never been a palatable option for him – especially against Isner, whom he has now beaten eight times in a row and who has broken Murray’s serve only once in 40 attempts.
The American did well to force a third set when he won the second-set tie-break, but he could not hold Murray off at the finish, a final volley catching the net flush after two hours and 17 minutes. It was Murray’s eighth title of the year and his 18th win in a row.
Isner paid Murray a glowing tribute on court. “I have to congratulate Andy, first for the title and also for [being] No1 in the world. That is an incredible achievement. Every week I’m in the same locker room and I see how much work you put in. You absolutely deserve it.”
Murray takes home his eighth Masters title, with only Indian Wells and Monte Carlo left. He has won 60 of 65 matches since May. “[It was] very satisfying,” Murray said. “It was an unbelievably hard match today. John came up with some great volleys. I was just lucky he hit a few [poor] serves in the last game and I managed to hit some good passing shots. I wasn’t getting many opportunities. I actually felt pretty good, as I was nervous before the match. I had never won here before, never got past the quarter-finals.”
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