Who is Men's Tennis' Real No. 1: Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray?
Novak Djokovic is still the top-ranked player in the world, but after Andy Murray's resounding victory over him in the Wimbledon final (6-4, 7-5, 6-4), I couldn't help but wonder if perhaps Murray was the best player in tennis right now.
After all, we suddenly live in a world where Murray has won three of the five biggest prizes in the last year—the Olympics, U.S. Open and Wimbledon. Even Murray himself can hardly believe it!
Can't believe what's just happened!!!!!!!— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) July 7, 2013
While Djokovic holds a 3,000-point lead in the ATP Rankings, Murray has beaten Djokovic in the finals of the U.S. Open and Wimbledon and the semifinals during the London Games. That's certainly enough to make it a conversation.
Before digging into this debate, it's important to note that Rafael Nadal is currently the leader in the 2013 Race Rankings, and after the French Open, many people (including myself) were arguing that he was the best player in tennis. However, considering the Spaniard's minimal play on hard courts over the past year and his early exit at Wimbledon, he should be left out of the discussion for the time being.
The truth is, right now, this is Murray and Djokovic's tour. The two have met in three of the last four Grand Slam finals and are certainly establishing themselves as the game's top rivalry.
They have already met 19 times in their careers, with Djokovic leading the head-to-head, 11-8. Considering they are both 26 (born just one week apart) and in relatively good health, they have set themselves up for an extremely compelling next few years of big-stage clashes.
Personality-wise, it's hard to think of two guys who are more different. Djoker loves the spotlight and thoroughly enjoys the "entertainer" part of the tennis professional's job. Murray, meanwhile, is a natural introvert, and the "fame" part of the gig always seemed like a big burden for him.
But both have a drive to be the best and the work ethic and talent to go along with it.
The two guys who dared to challenge the Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal tour stranglehold, they began their quest for greatness together when they were merely teenagers and have skyrocketed up the rankings since.
Though their on-court tennis hasn't always brought out the best in one another's games—their matches are sometimes brutally passive—they have certainly brought out the best in each other's careers.
Djokovic was the first to have a huge breakthrough, and with his six grand slams and two years as the year-end No. 1, he certainly has a more impressive curriculum vitae of the two.
But Murray is gaining ground at a rapid pace.
Both guys are incredibly fit, though they each put an emphasis on different things. Djokovic is incredibly agile and fast, allowing him to play excellent defense. Murray, meanwhile, relies on his strength.
The last 12 months have been incredibly successful for both. While Murray has two Grand Slams to Djokovic's one, Djokovic has seven titles to Murray's six. They have met six times in the last year, all on big stages—the Olympics, U.S. Open, Shanghai Masters, Barclay's ATP World Tour Finals, Australian Open and Wimbledon—and split their meetings 3-3.
Murray's offense is currently better than his Serbian counterpart's, particularly when he remembers to actually put some power into his forehand. Murray can also deal with the conditions—such as the wind during the U.S. Open final and the harsh sunlight in the Wimbledon final—better thanks to his power.
Mentally, Murray's dedication to grinding out difficult victories and his patience for finding ways to win when he's not playing his best tennis have taken him from bridesmaid to bride over the past year.
But Djokovic's court-sense, return of serve, backhand and versatility are still the best on tour. Plus, he's also resilient. He has bounced back from tough losses time and time again this year, proving that even when he's not in the God-like mode that he was in throughout 2011, he's still the one to beat.
Though it's a close call, I would still give Djokovic the edge. Not only does he have the lead in the points, which is a big factor, but he also has a huge advantage over Murray on clay courts, which has to be taken into consideration when talking about the overall best player.
But still, after his recent successes, it's Andy Murray's world right now. The rest of us just live in it.
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