x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Hard work and Nadal absence pay off for new No 2 Murray

The top spot is by no means beyond Andy Murray as he sets his sights on avenging a defeat by Roger Federer in the final of last year's US Open.

Andy Murray was quick to acknowledge that he could not have made the tremendous career leap from being the third-best player in the world to second best if Rafael Nadal - an all-powerful No 1 at the start of the year - had not been laid low for a couple of months with knee tendinitis. Nevertheless, the young Briton is delighted with his achievement, which will be confirmed today when the new ATP rankings are published showing him as the biggest threat to the Swiss master Roger Federer, who re-established himself as king of the castle through a record-breaking 15th grand slam title at Wimbledon last month.

"It's hard to move up when you get into the top five because the players above you are so good and so consistent," said Murray after a battling 6-4, 7-6 (10-8) victory over Jo Wilfried Tsonga in the semi- finals of the Rogers Cup in Montreal had confirmed that he now has more ranking points than Nadal. "I have been able to capitalise on Rafa's injury lay-off which is unfortunate for him but good for me," added Murray, who was hoping to endorse his new status by overcoming the powerful Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro in last night's final.

The last Briton to reach the summit clash here was Roger Taylor, who lost in 1970 to Rod Laver. Even before his latest rankings upgrade, Murray was officially Britain's best player of the modern era and the top spot is by no means beyond him as he sets his sights on avenging a defeat by Federer in the final of last year's US Open. "It's a great feeling," said Murray. I've worked really hard after Wimbledon and it's nice when you feel like the hard work is paying off. I've been No 3 for quite a while now and it's nice to make that jump. Now I'll try to go one step further.

"To jump somebody like a Nadal or a Federer is so difficult, that's why no one's done it for five or six years. They've dominated the rankings and in my opinion they are the two best rivals ever. "Novak [Djokovic] had one or two matches to get to No 2," he added. Del Potro, who won last week's tournament in Los Angeles, was relishing the chance to spoil the Scot's celebrations after qualifying for another final at the expense of Andy Roddick, who beat Murray in the Wimbledon semi-finals only to lose an epic final to Federer.

Roddick broke to win the opening set, but was dominated in the second by 20-year-old Del Potro. The two held service to 5-5 in the third, when Roddick went down 30-40 and double-faulted the game away. The sixth-seed then served out. "I like playing opponents who are better than me," said the formidable Del Potro, a 6ft 6in giant who has made rapid progress over the last year to fifth in the rankings. "This is a good chance for me to win another tournament," added the Argentine who sent out warning bells to the rest of the tour this time last year by winning four titles in succession.

wjohnson@thenational.ae