Andy Murray: The Best, Without Being Better

Andy Murray was supposed to play Milos Raonic in the semifinals of Paris Masters, but was spared a day of play as Raonic defaulted the match due to a quad injury. Having lost match play today, Murray strolled out to the Court to practice for the tomorrow’s final.

Sounds fairly routine, though there was a small catch. With Raonic’s withdrawal, Murray will now officially become the World no. 1 on Monday. However, he was just having another practice day on Court as the LCD screen opposite him was displaying congratulatory messages for his achievement.

Murray on the practice court as the LCD screen displays his World no. 1

It perhaps seems fitting too. Things have never been easy for Murray. He has competed against three of the best players of all time together, and the severe competition against those guys has never let him have a breather.

He holds a losing record against Federer, Nadal and Djokovic — his biggest rivals. He lost five Grand Slam finals before winning one. He cried after losing a Wimbledon final as he watched the crowd supporting Roger Federer instead of him, in his own country. Even after becoming the first British male to win Wimbledon in 77 years the following year, he felt relieved rather than ecstatic after such a monumental achievement. Success has eluded him so often, and has sandwiched between so many heartbreaks, that it seems to take the joy out of it.

Even this year, the struggle for Murray was monumental. Djokovic had won Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Rome and the French Open (and won London, Paris, Shanghai, Beijing, US Open and Wimbledon in the latter half of last year) till the first half of this year, and had more than double his ranking points.

However, Murray, like he has done all his career, kept pounding on. He brought back Ivan Lendl as his coach — the same coach who helped him win his first major, won Wimbledon and Olympics, Beijing and Shanghai, and capitalised on Djokovic’s post French Open slump and achieved what was supposedly impossible just five months back.

Murray is now the no. 1 player in the world. And he has done it in an era competing against three players so dominant that they can defeat their opponent before even entering the court. And he has done this by ignoring his defeats to them, ignoring one failure after another against them.

Murray has shown that one doesn’t need to be better than everyone to be the best.