Recently, the ATP World Tour Finals occurred and, with the top eight ranked players contesting in the championship, it seemed the final tournament of the year might be a competitive and intriguing spectacle. Pre-tournament, it seemed Novak Djokovic may have been the favourite to take the crown; the Serbian had already won the tournament five times and, with the knowledge he may climb back to his number one ranking with victory in London, perhaps this may have been the added incentive necessary for the Serbian to gain victory. Yet, Andy Murray, who won the tournament for the first time, wins the final versus the aforementioned Serbian in straight sets. As such, it is the Brit who ends the year as the world number one, perhaps gaining a vast amount of experience, and confidence, heading into 2017.
Players are eligible to qualify for the tournament when ranked within the top eight in the world. As such, this tournament seems to be a motivational tool for the majority of the top players, as, with 200 ranking points on offer for each group stage victory, along with $179,000 in prize money for the same feat, the championship seems to be a beneficial finale for a player’s season. In the tournament, the players are split into two groups, the John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl groups respectively, with a round robin format occurring at this stage; the top two players from each group advance to the semi-finals, and then ultimately the final.
World number one, and double Olympic gold medallist Andy Murray, was placed in the McEnroe group, and began his tournament with a straight sets victory versus Marin Cilic, before following this with victory versus Kei Nishikori 6-7, 6-4, 6-4. Yet, this match seemed most notable for another reason: the game was the longest in the tournament’s history, there in emphasising Murray’s determination to succeed, and emulate the glories of former players, as he seemed to showcase his stamina in the victory. A win in his final group game, before victory versus fourth seed Milos Raonic, who he previously played in the Wimbledon final, saw Murray advance. In the opposing group, Novak Djokovic, seemingly looking to displace Murray as the world number one, won all three of his group games, two of which were in straight sets. In his semi-final, he seemed to continue playing at his peak ability, winning 6-1, 6-1 versus Kei Nishikori.
As such, the final was contested between Murray and Djokovic, competing for both the trophy and the number one ranking simultaneously and, whilst Murray may have been the top seed, it seemed many might have predicted a Serbian victory, perhaps due to him emerging with the trophy for four consecutive years. Yet, Murray seemed to continue the form, which enabled him to win the most tournaments in 2016, eventually emerging as the victor via a 6-3, 6-4 score line. As such, Murray maintained his status as the world number one, ending the year with the ranking and ensuring he continues to be the first British male to command this title. Additionally, with Murray extending his winning run to 24 games during the tournament, it may suggest he is playing at his peak ability to achieve what seems to be the pinnacle of his sport: receiving the number one ranking trophy.
At first glance, it may seem Murray is the player who may be able to utilise this tournament in the most productive manner, as it seemed to reinforce his place at the top of the rankings, perhaps even providing a catalyst for himself to begin the 2017 season as consistently as he seemed to finish the last. Yet, other players, such as Djokovic and Raonic, may also utilise this tournament productively, perhaps motivating themselves to compete for Grand Slams, resulting in them qualifying, and competing for, the World Tour trophy next year. Ultimately, with the tournament consisting of players other than Nadal and Federer for the first time since 2001, it seems the elite face a fresh challenge for titles, perhaps making the sport a more intriguing spectacle.
How may the players enhance their repertoire in order to ensure they may return to London for next year’s finals?