Andy Murray already clinched the World No. 1 ranking with an appearance in the final of the 2016 Paris Masters. However, the Scot remained motivated on Sunday in the French capital as he faced John Isner in the tournament final. In a result that places emphasis on Murray’s new ranking, he defeated Isner in the championship match to claim his 8th title of the 2016 season. The line score in the match was 6-3, 6-7, 6-4.
Since losing to Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals of the US Open, Murray has been absolutely on fire in tournament play. His only loss since Flushing Meadows in any event came in the Davis Cup where Juan Martin del Potro defeated the Scot in a fierce five setter. After that Murray won Beijing, he won Shanghai, he won Vienna, and he has now also won Paris.
One detail with his run of form that makes it a tad strange is that he won four important tournaments, two at the 500 level and two at the 1000 level, without beating any of the top players directly. Somehow, in four meaningful tournaments, Murray dodged having to play a match against any player that will get a direct entry in the ATP World Tour Finals. The best player the Scot beat during his run of four titles was Tomas Berdych, a player that will bubble for a direct entry into London and who can only serve as an alternate. Walkover wins may have been helpful for the Scot as he advanced through both Milos Raonic and David Ferrer in late-round matches in recent weeks.
Dodging all of Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Raonic, Nishikori, Gael Monfils, Marin Cilic, and Dominic Thiem en route to winning four titles, all of which were higher than the 250 level, takes a little bit of luck. That’s not meant as a criticism of Murray as he doesn’t pick his opponents. However, it won’t be possible to avoid those top players in London.
Cilic, who qualified for the year-end event with a run in Paris, is a particularly interesting player heading into London. His confidence has to be sky-high with titles from Cincinnati and Basel this season. Furthermore, he has match wins in 2016 over Djokovic, Murray, and Nishikori (x2). The Croatian is a player that has to be thinking about getting through the group stage of London and getting into the final. The 2014 US Open champion, at his best, can play with anyone. As the 5th favorite to win the London title (25/1 with betway), he seems a little under-rated.
The player that seems over-rated in my mind is the one that will fall from the top spot on Monday. Djokovic has been nowhere near himself since winning the 2016 French Open. Some might point out that he made the US Open final and won Toronto since Roland Garros, but the Toronto draw was a depleted one this season. Furthermore, Djokovic ‘surviving’ his draw to the final of the US Open proved little since it included a combined total of three walkovers and retirements. The elbow injury and the post-French Open losses to Sam Querrey, del Potro, Wawrinka, Bautista-Agut, and Cilic make a run to the final difficult to picture for the Serbinator in London. Truthfully I don’t think Djokovic will get through the group stage and I even wonder if he’s a withdrawal risk for London.
The tour finals start in a week’s time, on November 13th. They will run until the 20th as Murray enters the event for the first time as the top seed.