Andy Murray's No 1 display secures Paris Masters title
And that was what pleased the new king of the rankings most: that he took everything that has happened to him in the past couple of days and still managed to turn out a championship winning performance yesterday.
His 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 win over Isner, the 6ft 10ins serving machine from America, won him his first BNP Paribas Masters title. It was his third Masters 1000 trophy of the year – a career best – his eighth title of the season and his fourth trophy in the past five weeks.
After climbing to the top of the rankings pile on Saturday when Milos Raonic pulled out of their scheduled semi-final with a leg injury, Murray could have felt flat and uninspired yesterday. But not a bit of it. He was on his toes from the start and was fierce, aggressive and focused from first ball until last.
“I was pleased,” he said looking awfully pleased indeed. “I felt really nervous before the match, I didn’t feel flat, or anything like that, which that was the most pleasing thing about today for me.
“Obviously it’s great to win, but sometimes after you achieve something big or something that you maybe didn’t expect, it can be quite easy to have a let-down and feel a little bit flat. I felt really nervous before the match today, and I was happy about that.”
Nervous, yes, but overwhelmed, not at all. Isner pumped down 18 aces, many of them tipping the 140 mph mark, and Murray never flinched. When tiny opportunities were snatched away from him by another ace or service winner, he simply marched to the other side of the court and started again. He kept his cool, served well, passed even better and capitalised on the few, scarce chances he managed to manufacture for himself. This was a champion’s display. It was a world No 1’s display.
Isner knew he would spend the afternoon running uphill – this was his eighth consecutive loss to the Scot. He, too, was on top of his game but it was not quite enough to stop what has become the inevitable over the past few months: Murray reaching a final and winning it.
“He’s the guy that everyone is looking up to right now,” Isner said. And, at 6ft 10ins, he does not have to look up to many people. “And he’s been at the top of the game for so long. Whether it’s 2, 3, 4 in the world, everyone knows how hard he works and how dedicated he is. He’s a big inspiration to myself, and I’m sure he’s a big inspiration to other players as well.”
“Andy achieved his goal of getting to No 1. I know he had that written down forever. But I think his next goal is staying there for a very long time. He’s going to give everything he has to achieve that. As it looks now, he’s the favourite going into the Australian Open.”
Murray is also the favourite as he goes into his last tournament of the year at the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London. If he is to maintain his position at the top of the rankings ladder, he needs to match Novak Djokovic’s results or better them.
If he doesn’t, his current reign at the top could last just two weeks. Not that that matters too much to the Scot – he just wants to keep his winning run going and put in a decent showing at the season-ending showcase. He has struggled there in the past and this would be the perfect opportunity to set his record straight there.
“It would be nice to finish the year No 1,” he said, “but I’m happy that I managed to get there. The last couple of years have been tough for me at the O2. Obviously I want to try and play my best tennis there.
“It’s not necessarily about winning: I just want to play my best and finish the year on a good note in that respect, because some of the years it has been tough for me there.
“So hopefully I can play some good tennis there. I will take a few days’ break now, and, you know, rest up a little bit and get ready for one big push over the next ten days.”
When his brother Jamie reached the No 1 spot in the doubles ranking, he and his wife stayed up late into the night to watch the rankings change in the early hours of Monday morning. The new singles No 1 will not go quite that far but, then again, he is not altogether sure he can quite believe what has happened to him over the past few days.
“I won’t stay up for it,” he said. “But maybe it hasn’t really sunk in because it all just has happened really quickly. I don’t really know if it’s sunk in or not.
“It feels different, certainly, to when I had won a Grand Slam or the Olympics. It feels quite different. Maybe just because of the way it happened, really.
“When you play a final, you win or you lose. Whereas with the No 1 ranking, it’s not really like that. I could still potentially have had a chance to do it next week so it feels kind of different.”
It feels different but it still feels good. And with only a couple of weeks of the season left to play, it could feel even better by the time the ATP Finals are over.