Murray Victory Turns Battle For No. 1 Red Hot
Scot could become No. 1 in Paris
Andy Murray turned the battle for No. 1 blazing hot on Sunday with his 6-3, 7-6(6) Erste Bank Open 500 title victory against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Vienna.
The Scot now trails World No. 1 Novak Djokovic by just 415 points in the Emirates ATP Race To London heading into the final week of the ATP World Tour regular season. With 1,000 points up for grabs at the BNP Paribas Masters this week, Murray could surpass the Serbian if he wins the Paris title and Djokovic does not reach the final. But Djokovic controls his fate. If he reaches the final, he'll remain No. 1.
Reaching No. 1 would be a historic achievement for Murray, who, on Monday, will have spent 76 weeks altogether at the No. 2 spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings. He first reached No. 2 more than seven years ago, on 17 August 2009. The 29 year old is trying to become the oldest first-time No. 1 since John Newcombe, at 30 years of age, on 3 June 1974.
Either way, Murray continued the best season of his career on Sunday. He beat Tsonga for the 14th time in 16 tries to win his seventh title of the season, which is a career high and ties Djokovic for the season lead. “I think I played my best tennis today of the tournament,” Murray said.
In the opener, the big-hitting Tsonga tried to put the pressure on Murray by attacking the net but he struggled to handle Murray's attempted passing shots. When both of them clung to the baseline, Murray controlled those rallies, too, often hitting with Tsonga until the Frenchman slipped an unforced error. Tsonga finished with 29 winners to 41 unforced errors.
Murray broke Tsonga to start the second set and led 3-1. But the 6'2” Tsonga returned to his aggressive play with more success, darting to the net whenever a shorter ball floated his way. Tsonga finished the match 26/38 on net points. He broke Murray for 4-all before Murray held at 5-6 to force a tie-break.
“Jo fought well and started playing a lot better. He was more aggressive and taking some more chances and making the shots,” Murray said.
But Murray was too solid in the tie-break, acing Tsonga out wide to clinch the Vienna title on his second championship point.
Murray heads into Paris having won 15 consecutive matches, including titles in Beijing, Shanghai and Vienna, and leading the ATP World Tour with 69 match wins this season. The Brit will receive 500 Emirates ATP Rankings points and €428,800 in prize money. “The last few months have been very good,” Murray said.
Tsonga was appearing in his first ATP World Tour final since September 2015, when he won his 12th career crown in Metz (d. Simon). He falls to 12-11 for his career in ATP World Tour finals. He will receive 300 Emirates ATP Rankings points and €201,380 in prize money.
Tsonga also still has a chance to qualify for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, to be held 13-20 Nov. at The O2 in London. He's currently in 13th place, 720 points behind Marin Cilic, who holds the eighth and final qualification spot.
“I'm really happy with my week. I played good tennis. I fought until the end, and that's most important for me,” Tsonga said. “It was nice to play five matches in a row like this.”
The Frenchman said he will be rooting for Murray to take over the No. 1 spot, except for one circumstance. “Next week you have a chance maybe to be No. 1,” Tsonga said. “I hope it's going to be the case, except if I play against you in the final.”