Tennis Expert & Columnist
Andy Murray is now Britain’s greatest ever sportsman, says Mark Petchey
Last Updated: 21/11/16 11:11am
Andy Murray is now Britain’s greatest ever sportsman after he won the ATP World Tour Finals to end the year as world No 1, according to Mark Petchey.
The Scot's former coach told Sky Sports News HQ recently that if Murray could overhaul long-time rival Novak Djokovic at the top of the rankings then he should be recognised as Great Britain's ultimate sportsman.
Murray guaranteed that he would hold on to his recently acquired No 1 spot going into the end of the season on Sunday as he beat Djokovic in straight sets to claim his first World Tour Finals title and Petchey stands by his earlier assessment.
"It's probably going to be a good pub chat, a lot of people are going to have different views on who should be and who shouldn't be," he told Sky Sports News HQ. "Every day I walk past Daley Thompson's gym - there will be a lot of people who think he was one of the greatest sports people.
"I just think for Andy in terms of the fact that his opponents can impact his performance, the things he has to do in terms of overcoming them tactically, you saw it this week the different styles of players, the different surfaces he has to play on, criss-crossing the globe the way he does.
"For me he is [Britain's greatest ever sportsman] but there will be others that definitely disagree."
Murray won his second Wimbledon title this year and defended his Olympic gold medal, but in order to maintain his new ranking he had to better Djokovic's tournament in London, which meant he could not afford to slip up.
"There was no room for error. He was one point away from not making it. Milos [Raonic] takes the match point in the semi-final and that's it, so he could not afford to lose one single match in the entire period. He has been blemish-free, perfection personified throughout that run," Petchey said.
"Also, just the quality of opponents he beat at the World Tour Finals. There was a debate going about the validity of it all because Roger [Federer] and Rafa [Nadal] weren't playing and he hadn't played Novak since the French Open. I didn't really agree with it so I'm delighted for him when you look at the rankings that he beat that he couldn't have done it any harder."
Petchey thinks it was important that Murray beat Djokovic in the final to cement his current status as the best player on the planet and stop any potential detractors from questioning the rankings.
"It was huge, I think had he not beaten Novak in the final it would have been somebody else, he hadn't played Novak in this tournament," he said.
"I think people who like to look at the glass half empty would have pulled that one up and said 'he hasn't beaten Novak since the French' and therefore it wouldn't have had the same authenticity to it that it does because he did."
Petchey believes becoming a father earlier this year has helped Murray's tennis and has allowed him to take some breaks from the sport where he would not have before. He also agrees with Djokovic's assessment that his wife Kim deserves special praise.
"I think it has been a very settling thing for Andy, obviously it was an adjustment but it is incredible to look at how well he has performed within the lines. I think Novak was right; Kim has obviously done a fantastic job. She has managed to keep Andy in the place he can be to play the tennis. I think it has given him a focus away from tennis."
Petchey revealed he took great pleasure in watching Murray rise to the top of the rankings after seeing him playing a Futures event for the first time at the age of 16 and he expects the 29-year-old to be as competitive as ever next season.
"Each success brings another debate. You talk to great champions of the past - we were fortunate enough to have Mats Wilander in the Sky Sports studio at the O2 and he actually hated being No 1. He said he got more pleasure once he got there from mowing the grass," he said.
"Yet you speak to Ivan [Lendl] and he loved it - the best thing ever was being the best tennis player on the planet. So you've got two differing views there and it will be a change for Andy, this whole period where he goes into his off-season, he is the best player on the planet in 2016.
"So it will be a little bit of an adjustment for him. To be honest, knowing him, he is the most competitive person you will ever come across so I don't have any doubt in my mind that he will have that mantle rest fairly lightly on his shoulders.
"To watch Andy invest as much as he has and the pure joy of working hard, I think he deserves everything he has got. He's not been given it because he is talented; he has earned every single trophy and every single accolade that he has been given throughout his career so far."