The tennis landscape has altered considerably over that last 12 months. Andy Murray will wake up on Monday to confirmation of something we've long known: he is currently the second best tennis player in the world. For the first time in his career he is ranked higher than the great Roger Federer, with his eyes now firmly set on overhauling Novak Djokovic to become world number one. It's a fantastic thought for any British tennis fan.
It's also the first time in 10 years that neither Federer nor Rafael Nadal will will feature in the top 2 of the world rankings. Murray and Djokovic are, for now at least, the dominant forces in the men's game. The Federer-Nadal duopoly that was once so formidable has finally made way.
This was Murray's second Miami Masters title, having first won it back in 2009, but it was far from a vintage performance as he struggled to a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-1) win over David Ferrer in 2 hours 45 minutes. Usually it's his brilliance and ingenuity we marvel at, but this win was all about his character and ability to dig in when his A game failed him. Ferrer, one of the game's finest fighters, was outfought. Just.
It was a very strange final, indeed. The majority of the match was strewn with errors, before the utterly compelling closing stages made sure it will be remembered for a long time. After trading the first two sets, the match moved into a decider, where neither player seemed to want to hold serve (there were six successive breaks) as momentum ebbed and flowed and the drama became almost unbearable. Murray saved match point, surviving a Hawk Eye call, before forcing a tiebreak which he won won comfortably.
Speaking to Sky Sports afterwards, Murray said:
It was a very tough match and it could've gone either way. We both struggled physically but thankfully I had enough to come through.
David (Ferrer) is one of the best players in the world and it's always incredibly tough playing him. He could've won the match.
It was a strange match. I just managed to fight well in the end in incredibly difficult conditions.
That sort of match a couple of years ago I probably would have lost. I was up a break three or four times in the third set and kept letting him back in through some loose shots.
I tried to keep fighting, chased down every ball, made it as hard for him as possible. There was a lot riding on the match and I was glad to get through in the end.
The number 2 ranking not only brings with it recognition of Murray's improvement and success over the past year, but also the practical benefits of more favourable draws in upcoming tournaments, something Ivan Lendl, Murray's coach, was keen to point out in an interview on Friday.
The Djokovic-Murray rivalry was undoubtedly the game's biggest draw last year, and that could well continue this season, although, the return of Nadal certainly adds an extra dimension to the tussle at the top of the game, and only a fool would write Federer out of contention.
The challenge for Murray now, of course, is to perform better on clay, starting in Monte Carlo, the next Masters 1000 event, which kicks off in two weeks time. If he really has aspirations of being the world number 1, he must start competing at the same level on the clay as he does on grass and hard courts. Djokovic, Nadal and Federer manage it, so Murray must, too. To become world number 1 in the most competitive era of men's tennis ever is an incredibly difficult task, but Murray knows that better than anybody. The amount of blood, sweat and tears that's gone into his rise to the number 2 spot is proof of how tough it will be but he has the game and, crucially, the belief he can do it. The next few months look set to be very interesting ones for Britain's Andy Murray.Suggest a correction