Andy Murray has set his sights on a strong finish to his season and with it a shot at surpassing Novak Djokovic at the top of the rankings.
The world No 2 is in Beijing for the China Open where he is hoping to make ground on the absent Djokovic in his pursuit of the coveted position at the summit of the men’s game.
A stellar 2016 so far, which has seen Murray win Wimbledon for a second time as well as reach two more grand slam finals and claim the Olympic gold in Rio, has coincided with a difficult second half of the season for his great rival Djokovic.
The Serbian, who is not playing in Beijing due to an elbow injury, suffered a surprise early exit at Wimbledon, later attributed to personal issues, while also suffering a first-round exit at the Olympics and withdrawing from the Cincinnati Open in August. He came into the US Open with lingering fitness concerns, but made it to the final where he lost to Stan Wawrinka.
Such mixed form has allowed Murray an unlikely sniff at the top spot. And with plenty of points left before the end of the season, all of which Djokovic is defending owing to his superb 2015 form, an ascent to the top is not out of the question before the end of the year.
“I think obviously trying to reach No 1 is a goal,” the Scot said. “I think most of the players near the top of the game would like that. I’ve never been there. It’s something I would like to do for the first time, which is maybe more of a motivation for me than some of the guys that have been there before.
“But I want to just try and finish this year strongly from a personal point of view. It’s been my best season to date, and I want to try to finish it as best as I can.”
Murray did not arrive in China until yesterday morning and his participation was in doubt due to a thigh injury suffered in the Davis Cup semi-final defeat to Argentina, and exhaustion owing to his heady summer. However, he has stuck to his schedule, going on to play in the Shanghai Rolex Masters next week, but is warning against anyone thinking victory will be routine in the 2008 Olympic city.
“I planned on playing here the whole year,” Murray, who starts against Italian Andreas Seppi tomorrow, said. “I needed to take quite a few days off after the Davis Cup to try and let my injury heal and to rest.
“I needed a break anyway. I haven’t been able to practise as much as usual coming into an event like this. But I feel healthy. My leg feels good.
“I only arrived here today. I’ll try and get some good practice in the next couple of days. I think this week I need to be realistic with how I’m going to play. I’m not putting too much pressure on myself.
“If I can get through my first match or so, I’ll start to feel better, then re-evaluate my chances of going far in the event.”