There was no time for a party on Sunday night. Andy Murray, the newly-crowned best player of 2016 and the champion of the ATP World Tour Finals, was heading home for a decent night’s kip and a chance to reflect.
In the peace and quiet of his Surrey home, he could look back on a career-best nine titles won, the No 1 ranking reached – and secured in spectacular style with his straight-sets flattening of Novak Djokovic on Sunday night – and an eye-watering 51-3 win-loss record since the start of the grass court season. Djokovic owned the first half of the year, Murray dominated the second half of it.
But while the Scot was grabbing a few moments to himself, the rest of the world was going crazy. Social media was buzzing with messages of congratulation: Roger Federer led the tributes from the locker room, JK Rowling, Justin Rose and Sir Patrick Stewart, pictured right, were blown away by Murray’s efforts and in a rare display of public unity, Nicola Sturgeon and David Cameron both gushed their appreciation.
Meanwhile, the bookies had Murray locked on as the favourite for an unprecedented third BBC Sports Personality of the Year award and the public chatter about a possible/probable/bound-to-happen knighthood got louder and louder. It was all a bit much for a quiet lad from Dunblane. Arise Sir Andy? He wasn’t so sure.
“Obviously it is the highest honour you can get in this country,” he said. “I don’t know, I feel like too young for something like that. I don’t think about that stuff much, really. When I win any award or am presented with anything, it is nice because it is recognition for what you have given your life to, up to now anyway.
“I am still young and there are still a lot of things that can go wrong, I could still mess up and make mistakes. Do stuff wrong. I am just trying to keep doing what I am doing: working hard and achieving stuff.”
“Achieving stuff” hardly sums up a career that has lifted Murray from the role of perpetual runner-up to the likes of Federer, Djokovic and Rafa Nadal to being the man they all now strive to beat. Since his first major crown – the Olympic gold medal in London four years ago – until now, he has proved himself to be the greatest sportsman the country has ever produced. But he cannot – and will not – sit on his laurels.
“When I was always fourth in the world, I never liked losing,” he said, “but it didn’t have the same kind of impact because I wasn’t number one and I wasn’t like holding on to something. Fourth place in the world is still great but it isn’t number one.
“Maybe now, especially the last few months when I have had that goal there and have been trying to get there, I want to stay there. I don’t feel too high just now, I feel good, and I feel motivated to keep going. I have enjoyed the last five, six months the most I have in all of my career. That is probably because I have won a lot so I want to keep going.”
In order to do that, he will probably miss the BBC Sports Personality awards. While everyone else is in their best bib and tucker, he will be in his sweats, grafting away in Florida to get his winter training in before the start of the new season. He will leave the day after his dad’s wedding: family first, work next but fun can wait. That is how he got to the top and that is how he intends to stay there.
“I’ve got my father’s stag do next weekend then he is getting married the following weekend,” Murray said. “So I will go up to Scotland on Saturday and come back down to London for four or five days then come back up to Scotland. Then I go to Miami the day after my dad’s wedding.
“I would have gone [to the BBC awards] if my dad wasn’t getting married. I would have gone to Miami a bit earlier and then would have come back for it. But because I am not able to go to Miami until I am, I am only going to get two weeks’ training in. If I was to come back and lose a few days, I can’t really afford to.”
Murray is tipping Olympic gold and silver triathlon medallists Alistair and Jonny Brownlee for a gong at the BBC bash and also gave an honourable mention to Andy Butchart. He knows Butchart well because not only does the 5,000m Olympian come from Dunblane but he is dating the daughter of Murray’s father’s soon-to-be wife. Professional sport is clearly a small world.
“I have no idea who will win it,” Murray said. “In an Olympic year it is always tough to pick because there are always so many great performances.”
But of all the performances, none has been as good as Murray on Sunday, or on all the Sundays going back to the early summer. Murray is, quite simply, the best there is.