In one of his countless interviews the day after his US Open triumph, Andy Murray said that if he had to choose, he would rather be Wimbledon champion than become world No 1. I am sure he meant it, but he will also know that winning grand slams would give him a great chance to hit top spot anyway.
Murray says the No 1 spot is now a goal and there are plenty who feel that with Roger Federer in his 32nd year and Rafael Nadal out injured, perhaps until the new year, this could be the Scot’s time to make a big push.
Certainly, the confidence he has earned from winning his first grand slam title could see him go on some sort of streak. If he can avoid a let-down – a serious possibility when you have a major breakthrough – then I expect him to continue playing well for the rest of the year and it’s interesting to see that he has is scheduled to play five events, including the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals before 2012 is out, giving him a maximum 4,500 points available.
It’s not going to be easy, though. After the US Open, the top four were as follows:
If you take off all the points they have to defend in the rest of the year, the standings look like this:
With Nadal perhaps out for the rest of the year, it’s clear that Djokovic is in pole position to end 2012 as he began it, on top of the world. Having won one grand slam and reached two other finals, he arguably deserves it and with plenty of points left to earn, you would expect him to be up there. Likewise, Federer could stay on top if he repeats his efforts of last year, when he won Basle, Paris and every match in London (maximum 1500 points).
Federer could also earn extra points if he plays in the Masters 1000 event in Shanghai, which he missed last year. However, in his press conference after losing to Tomas Berdych in New York, the Swiss hinted that he may take it easy over the next couple of months and in his Davis Cup press duties on Thursday, he will only make a decision on Asia and chasing No 1 after this weekend. My hunch is he won’t go.
Mathematically, it seems that Murray would need to win in London, probably by winning all five matches to get the maximum points, and even then it is unlikely to be enough, if Djokovic plays a full schedule or if Federer does not shut down the season.
So, it is not impossible, but unlikely that Murray can get to the top this year. However, the first few months of 2013 could be his best chance. Murray reached the semis in Australia, while Djokovic won the title, so there could be a big swing of points there, while he earned just 310 points out of a possible 500 in Dubai and Indian Wells. And in Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome, he amassed just 270 points (out of a possible 3000).
It could happen this year; it might happen in Australia if he wins the title but my best bet would be that he will hit top spot in the desert of California in March.