This week’s Paris Masters may be the last tournament for a while in which Andy Murray has to look at the bottom half of the draw.
For a third successive tournament win on the ATP Tour could see the Scot complete one of his few remaining career goals – to become world No 1.
Following a 15-match winning streak, Murray has cut the gap to long-term rival, and friend, Novak Djokovic to just 435 points in the Emirates ATP Race to London. The 31-year-old is as close as he has ever been to topping the world standings.
There are two permutations for Murray to achieve his goal this week. If he wins, he will unseat Djokovic as No 1 providing the Serb is not in the final. Should Murray repeat his result as beaten finalist of 2015, it would all depend on whether Djokovic had reached the semi-finals.
However, it could, in turn, just be a matter of another week’s wait for Murray who defends just 200 ranking points at the end of season World Tour Finals in London later this month, whereas defending champion Djokovic has 1,300 points hanging in the balance.
Having risen out of the shadows of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Djokovic has spent the last 122 weeks on top of the world, 115 short of Federer’s long-standing record.
For Murray, the No 2 tag has been his for 76 weeks since first reaching the mark in 2009 but as yet, the No 1 spot has been elusive.
“I do deserve to be there, because the rankings don’t lie,” Murray said, ahead of his second round encounter with Spain’s Fernando Verdasco today.
“It’s a long season. We have a lot of mandatory events that pretty much all of the top players play in,
“If you’re ranked 1 or 2 or 3 or 4, that’s where you deserve to be ranked providing you’re fit. I have been healthy the whole year, and the last four or five months I have played the best tennis of my career. So I deserve to be ranked No 2 in the world now and Novak deserves to be No 1 because of the year that he’s had. ”
Verdasco and Murray have met 13 times although only once since Murray swept the Spaniard aside on their last meeting in the French capital, at Roland Garros, in 2014.
Verdasco, a clay-court specialist who has lost in the opening round in five of his last six tournaments, boasts only one professional win over the British No 1 – in the 2008 Australian Open fourth round.
Murray’s route in the bottom half could see him face Verdasco’s big-serving compatriot Feliciano Lopez in round three, while seventh-seed Tomas Berdych and rising star Milos Raonic may feature further down the line.