Getty Images

Without playing a point, Murray seals No. 1 spot in Paris

Leave a comment

PARIS — Andy Murray will hold the coveted No. 1 spot for the first time when the ATP rankings are published Monday after advancing to the Paris Masters final without playing a single point.

Murray benefited from Milos Raonic’s withdrawal from the tournament – just one hour before the big-serving Canadian was scheduled to take on the 29-year-old Briton in the semifinals on Saturday.

Raonic said he withdrew because of a right leg injury he picked up during his quarterfinal win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

“This morning I had trouble waking up and getting out of bed… Did some tests. Did an MRI half an hour ago, let’s say. They found that I have a tear, Grade 1 tear in the right quad,” Raonic said. “Unfortunately, I’m not able to compete against Andy today.”

Murray only needed to make the final in Paris to take top spot off Novak Djokovic. He is guaranteed to hold at least a five-point lead over Djokovic, who lost in the quarterfinals in Paris. Their fight for supremacy will resume in London at the ATP finals later this month.

Murray faces John Isner in the Paris Masters final after the American hit 18 aces to defeat Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3.

Murray will become the first Briton to hold the top spot, no matter the result of Sunday’s final. He will also be the oldest first-time No. 1 since John Newcombe at age 30 in 1974, and the 26th player to reach No. 1 since the rankings started in 1973.

Reaching the summit has been a long process for Murray, who has spent 76 weeks at No. 2, a position he reached for the first time in 2009.

A turning point in the Scot’s career came when he hired Ivan Lendl as a coach in 2011. During their first stint together, Lendl managed to turn Murray from a four-time Grand Slam runner-up into a two-time major champion. Murray won Olympic gold in London in 2012 and the U.S. Open title later the same year. In 2013, he became the first British man to triumph at Wimbledon in 77 years.

Before winning the U.S. Open, Murray was 0-4 in Grand Slam finals. Only one other man in the Open era, which began in 1968, lost his first four major titles matches – Lendl. The Czech-born baseline player then went on to win eight Grand Slam singles titles during a 17-year career, spending 270 weeks at No. 1 in the world rankings.

Murray replaced Lendl with Amelie Mauresmo in 2014. Though the Frenchwoman helped him climb back up the rankings following back surgery, the partnership ended in May this year without any new major title. The Scot reunited with Lendl before Wimbledon, a week after Murray lost to Djokovic in the French Open final.

The move paid off immediately as Murray claimed a second title at the All England Club and a second gold medal at the Rio Olympics. Last week in Vienna he won the Erste Bank Open for his third straight tournament and has a 45-3 match record since the French Open.

Djokovic held the top spot for 122 consecutive weeks. But after winning the French Open for the first time in June, his form has taken a dip. He lost in the third round at Wimbledon, and in the first round of the Olympics. At the U.S Open, he won the first set in the final but Stan Wawrinka rallied to beat him.

“He’s definitely a player who deserves that,” Djokovic said about Murray on Friday. “Undoubtedly, much respect for what he has done. We have known each other since very, very early days. We were, I think, 11 years old when we first played against each other. And to see how he has raised his level in the last 12 months is quite extraordinary.”

One person was quick to congratulate Murray on Saturday – his mother Judy.

“You’ve come a long way baby,” Judy Murray tweeted , with an old photo of the two of them on a tennis court.

Two-time champ Azarenka gets Australian Open wild card

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka has been awarded a wild card for the Australian Open.

Azarenka, who won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, has been involved in a custody dispute involving her son Leo, who was born last Dec. 19.

She hasn’t competed anywhere since Wimbledon, where she lost to Simona Halep in the fourth round on July 10. The dispute with her former partner started shortly after Wimbledon ended.

Azarenka has played only six matches this year and is ranked 208th.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said on Wednesday that every assistance would be provided to the former No. 1, adding “Vika’s current situation is obviously very difficult for her and we have reached out to offer any support we can.”

The Australian Open starts on Jan. 15.

Nadal, Muguruza win ITF player of the year awards

AP Photo
Leave a comment

LONDON — Rafael Nadal and Garbine Muguruza have won the International Tennis Federation’s player of the year awards.

At 31, Nadal becomes the oldest ITF men’s world champion after a season in which he won a 10th French Open and a third U.S. Open.

The Spaniard also became the oldest player to finish the year at No. 1 since the ATP rankings began in 1973.

Muguruza dropped only one set en route to her first Wimbledon title and finished the year at No. 2 behind Simona Halep.

“Becoming ITF world champion in such a competitive year is amazing for me,” said Muguruza, who is also Spanish. “(Nadal) is a great role model for all of us, so it is a great moment for tennis in Spain.”