The Number Ones

Andy Murray: The Man Who Ended The Big Three’s No. 1 Reign

The Brit has lifted 46 tour-level crowns in the ‘Big Three’ era

October 16, 2020
Andy Murray began his 41-week reign at the top of the PIF ATP Rankings after lifting his maiden Rolex Paris Masters trophy in 2016.
Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Andy Murray began his 41-week reign at the top of the PIF ATP Rankings after lifting his maiden Rolex Paris Masters trophy in 2016. By Tom Allen

As a part of a series highlighting all players to reach World No. 1, profiles Andy Murray.View Series.

First week at No. 1: 7 November 2016
Total weeks at No. 1: 41
Year-End No. 1s: 2016

As World No. 1
More than eight years after cracking the Top 4 behind Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for the first time on 8 September 2008, Murray ended the Big Three’s 666-week stranglehold on the World No. 1 position in the PIF ATP Rankings on 7 November 2016. Having spent 76 weeks at No. 2 across seven stints, Murray’s perseverance paid off as he became the oldest first-time World No. 1 since John Newcombe in June 1974 by reaching the Rolex Paris Masters final in his 12th season as a professional. “The past few months have been the best of my career and I am very proud to have reached No. 1. It has been a goal of mine for the past few years,” said Murray. With a stellar run of results, Murray ended Djokovic’s two-year, four-month run at the top of the game to become the first British man to top the PIF ATP Rankings. Between ATP Masters 1000 events in Madrid and Paris, the Brit reached 11 finals from 12 events (8-3) to take the top spot. Murray held the World No. 1 position for 41 consecutive weeks, winning 18 of 25 encounters and two of three championship matches during his reign.

Grand Slam Highlights
Murray has captured three major championship trophies, including two titles in front of home support at Wimbledon. After losses in his opening three Grand Slam finals, Murray hired Ivan Lendl at the start of the 2012 ATP Tour season. Despite losing his next major final at Wimbledon in 2012 to match Lendl’s record after four appearances in major finals, Murray broke through at the 2012 US Open to become the first man from Great Britain to win a Grand Slam singles trophy in 76 years. The 32-year-old soon ended Great Britain’s 77-year wait for a home Gentlemen’s Singles champion in 2013, beating World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in straight sets. “It was such a big thing for a British man to win Wimbledon. It had been so long, I was so relieved that I’d done that,” said Murray. “It was a question I’d been asked so many times over the course of my career.” Murray, who owns a 57-10 record at his home Grand Slam, also triumphed at the event in 2016, beating Milos Raonic in the championship match. Each of Murray’s three Grand Slam victories came with Lendl in his corner. Murray has also reached five Australian Open finals (2010-‘11, ’13, ’15-’16) and one Roland Garros championship match (2016).


Nitto ATP Finals Highlights
Murray became the first British player to win the Nitto ATP Finals title in 2016, beating Djokovic in a winner-takes-all championship match at The O2 in London. Both players entered the final one win away from ending the 2016 ATP Tour season as year-end World No. 1 and it was Murray who held his nerve. The Briton claimed his 24th consecutive match win to become the 17th man to finish an ATP Tour season atop the PIF ATP Rankings and the first man outside the ‘Big Three’ to clinch the year-end No. 1 position since Andy Roddick in 2003. “It was obviously a very important win for me,” said Murray. “It was just a huge match to finish the year, to try and finish No. 1.” Murray’s win capped a memorable run of five consecutive tournament victories. The Dunblane native claimed trophies in Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna and Paris prior to arriving in London. His year-end No. 1 bid was almost ended at the penultimate hurdle by Milos Raonic, who held a match point in their semi-final clash at The O2. Between 2008 and 2016, Murray won 16 of 27 matches across eight appearances at the elite eight-man tournament.

ATP Masters 1000 Highlights
In terms of titles won, Murray is the fifth most successful player in ATP Masters 1000 history (since 1990). Murray owns 14 Masters 1000 trophies, trailing only Djokovic (36) Rafael Nadal (35), Roger Federer (28) and Andre Agassi (17). The 6’3” right-hander lifted three trophies in Canada (2009-’10, ’15) and Shanghai (2010-’11, ’16) and completed two title runs in Miami (2009, ’13), Madrid (2008, ’15) and Cincinnati (2008, ’11). In 2016, Murray also triumphed in Rome and Paris for the first time.

Biggest Rivalries
Born just one week apart, Murray and Djokovic climbed the PIF ATP Rankings alongside each other and developed one of the most frequent rivalries in recent ATP Tour history. With 36 ATP Head2Head encounters (Djokovic leads 25-11), including 19 finals, the two stars have competed for the greatest prizes in the sport for more than a decade. Murray and Djokovic have met in finals at all four Grand Slam tournaments and at seven of the nine Masters 1000 events. Murray defeated Djokovic to win Grand Slam titles at the 2012 US Open and 2013 Wimbledon and also overcame the Serbian to clinch the Nitto ATP Finals crown and year-end World No. 1 spot in the PIF ATP Rankings in 2016.

“We’ve played in Grand Slam finals, Olympics and matches like this - it’s been a tough rivalry,” said Murray at the 2016 Nitto ATP Finals. “I’ve lost many of them, but I am happy to have got the win today to clinch the year-end No. 1. It’s very special, it’s something that I never expected.”

Since their first meeting in the 2005 Bangkok final, Murray and Federer have established a memorable rivalry on the ATP Tour. Murray and Federer have contested 25 encounters, with Federer edging their ATP Head2Head rivalry 14-11. The pair has met in eight finals (Federer leads 5-3), including three Grand Slam finals, but Murray triumphed in the Gold Medal match at the 2012 London Olympics. “I do really enjoy playing Roger,” said Murray. “It’s obviously a great experience every time you get to play against him.”

As the first British Grand Slam singles champion since Fred Perry in 1936, Murray will be remembered as one of the greatest players during a golden era for the sport. With one of the best returns in the history of the game, impressive variety and a counter-punching style of play, Murray has battled throughout his career to earn 46 tour-level trophies. With victory at the 2016 Nitto ATP Finals, the Glasgow-born star became the 17th man to end an ATP Tour season as World No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings.

Murray has also enjoyed considerable success representing Great Britain throughout his career. Just four weeks after losing to Federer in the 2012 Wimbledon final and shedding tears in an emotional runner-up speech, Murray returned to SW19 backed by a patriotic home crowd. The 6’3” right-hander gained his revenge and claimed gold for his country in emphatic fashion, beating Federer in straight sets on Centre Court.

After leading his nation as the opening ceremony flagbearer at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Murray became the first man in history to win back-to-back Olympic singles gold medals. Supported by a carnival atmosphere, the Briton outlasted Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro over four hours and two minutes to capture his second gold medal. Murray also led Great Britain to its 10th Davis Cup title in 2015, its first success in the competition for 79 years.

Overall Match Win-Loss Record: 676-200 (as at 15 October, 2020)
Overall Titles/Finals Record: 46-22

Memorable Moment
After losing his fourth Grand Slam final in as many appearances at Wimbledon in 2012, Murray returned to SW19 one year later to end Great Britain’s 77-year wait for a Gentlemen’s Singles champion. The 26-year-old, who had claimed the 2012 London Olympics singles gold medal at the All England Club, cruised through to the quarter-finals before comeback victories against Fernando Verdasco and Jerzy Janowicz. Backed by 15,000 fans on Centre Court and a further 4,000 supporters on Henman Hill, Murray faced Djokovic, the man he had beaten to win his maiden Grand Slam title at the 2012 US Open. After edging the opening two sets, Murray recovered from a 2-4 deficit in the third set to serve for the trophy at 5-4. As the Centre Court crowd struggled to contain its excitement, Murray was unable to convert three consecutive championship points from 40/0 and was soon forced to save three break points. Murray finally clinched the 11-minute game, and the trophy, on his fourth championship point as Djokovic fired a backhand into the net. "He came up with some unbelievable shots in that last game,” said Murray. “I think that's why at the end of the match I didn't quite know what was going on. [There were] just a lot of different emotions at that time. And the end, mentally, that last game will be the toughest game I'll play in my career, ever."

<a href=''>Andy Murray</a> defeats <a href=''>Novak Djokovic</a> in straight sets to claim his maiden <a href=''>Wimbledon</a> title in 2013.

Djokovic on Murray
“I will carry beautiful memories from the court and off the court with him. We've played lots of epic matches.”

Murray on Murray
"I always said that maybe if I played [in] another era maybe I would have won more, but I wouldn't have been as good a tennis player. I think that's how you should be judged at the end of your career, not just on how much you're winning but on the people you're competing against and how good a player you actually were."

Broadcaster/Journalist Graeme Agars
Only two tennis players have been knighted and Sir Andrew Barron Murray is one of them. The other is Sir Norman Brooks, a talented Australian who played with great success in the early 1900s. Such is the esteem that Murray is held in by the population of the United Kingdom.

The Briton was knighted by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace in May 2019, in recognition of his two Wimbledon title runs in 2013 and 2016. After his 2013 win, the first by a British Player since Fred Perry won the last of his three straight trophies in 1936, he was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by Prince William and was also featured on four Royal Mail stamps in the UK. Murray is also the only sportsperson to be crowned the BBC Sports Personality of the Year on three occasions.

Murray’s hard-hitting game makes him dangerous on any fast surface and, in particular, on grass. His big serve helps set up points and his court movement, until slowed by hip problems, was a real match winner. When needed he has also proven very efficient at the net.

That all-round game has served him well at the Grand Slams, on the ATP Tour and at the Olympic Games, where it earned him two consecutive Gold Medals at London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016.

In 2018 and 2019, Murray underwent surgery on his troublesome right hip. His much publicised ‘resurfacing’ treatment in 2019 proved successful, allowing him to continue playing on the ATP Tour. Off the court, he has made many valuable contributions to the game, including an influential term on the ATP Player Council.

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