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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Andy Murray's forgettable run as No 1 starts its final week as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal wait in the wings

The injured Briton is guaranteed to lose the top spot after the Cincinnati Masters is completed.

Andy Murray has won only one tournament in 2017 while ranked as world No 1. Tim Ireland / AP Photo
Andy Murray has won only one tournament in 2017 while ranked as world No 1. Tim Ireland / AP Photo

Monday will be a rather poignant day for Andy Murray.

For the 42nd week in a row the 30-year-old Briton's name will be printed out at the top of the ATP world rankings list, a position he has held since the start of November.

But Monday is the last time that will happen, at least for the foreseeable future as no matter what happens in Cincinnati this week, he will next week be down to No 3 in the rankings.

Murray is missing the tournament as he deals with a hip injury, and the loss of the 600 ranking points for not matching his run to the final of the event 12 months ago means he will fall from 7,750 points to 7,150.

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The question in Cincinnati will be who will take over top spot - Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, with both men almost certain to be beyond 7,150 points.

It is a pity that having worked so hard to get to the No 1 position, Murray's reign will end with him sidelined, although it does sum up what has ultimately been a disappointing time at the top for the two-time Wimbledon champion.

Unless he can turn the formbook on its head and triumph for a second time at the US Open, which starts on August 28, he is going to be the first player since Lleyton Hewitt in 2003 to have the No 1 ranking in a year and not win a grand slam.

But that does not tell the full story of arguably Murray's worst season, results wise, since he established himself as a top player 10 years ago.

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A record of 26-10 for a No 1 is poor, and yes, he has been hampered by injuries, with an elbow problem curtailing his hardcourt season, and then the current hip issue effectively ending his Wimbledon title hopes last month.

Only one title has come in 2017, at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in March, and he rode his luck to prevail there, as Philipp Kohlschreiber failed to take seven match points in their quarter-final clash.

The biggest indictment of Murray's fall is who he has been losing to - world No 50 Mischa Zverev at the Australian Open, Vasek Pospisil, the world No 129, in Indian Wells, and Jordan Thompson, ranked No 90, at Queens. He hasn't even faced Federer or Nadal this season.

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How much is injury, how much is his own game dipping, only Murray will honestly be able to say.

Murray's spell at the top may have been anti-climatic, but that should not detract from the achievement of having got there in the first place.

From June to November last year Murray was the best player in the world. He almost won the French Open, won Wimbledon, took Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro, and then won four titles in a row before wrapping up the year with the ATP Tour World Finals title in London, the result that guaranteed No 1 spot.

He played like a No 1 during that period; confident, determined, and forceful on court, backed up by a real belief. Even in tight spots he would find a way to get himself out of trouble.

He is only the 26th player since the ATP rankings were launched in 1973 with their computerised system to be No 1, and that should not be disregarded, even if having climbed his way to the top of the mountain, he has failed to kick on and establish himself there.

This is by no means the end for Murray. Whether he is fit or not for New York, he is too good a player just to disappear from the top of the game.

It may be a case that he plays minimal events in the closing months of 2017 to be fully fit and ready for 2018.

His success at the end of 2016 means that he is likely to lose a lot of ranking points, but Federer, who did not play after Wimbledon last year, is the example that you do not have to fear your ranking spot if you are playing well enough.

Federer, who could replace Murray next week, won the Australian Open seeded 17th, and beat four players in the top 10 to do it.

His time at No 1 is coming to an end, but there is no reason why with some rest and time on the practice court Murray cannot get himself back to the top in 2018.

He has done the journey once already. The challenge now is to do it again.

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