ANDY MURRAY celebrated his rise to the top of the world rankings by beating John Isner 6-3 6-7 (4/7) 6-4 in a hard-fought BNP Paribas Masters final in Paris.
Murray, 29, already assured of the top spot for the first time in his career, sealed his eighth ATP Tour title of the season with victory over his big-serving 6ft 10in American opponent in two hours and 17 minutes.
Milos Raonic’s withdrawal from his scheduled semi-final clash with Murray on Saturday was enough for the Scot to overhaul Novak Djokovic, who had spent 122 consecutive weeks as number one from July 2014 before his quarter-final defeat to Marin Cilic.
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Murray needed only one break point in the first set, seizing on his chance in the sixth game to go 4-2 up and although Isner had two break points of his own, he was unable to take them and the Scot served out at 5-3 to seal it in 37 minutes.
World No 27 Isner improved markedly in the second set, especially at the net, but squandered four break points in the eighth game after neither serve had been troubled up to that point.
The American looked tired after letting that game slip, but lifted himself again and produced a brilliant volley at the net to help him hold serve in the next to take a 5-4 lead.
Murray was serving to stay in the set, but won it to love to make it 5-5 before both players held serve to ensure a tie-break.
Isner smashed down his 100th ace of the week to lead 3-2 in the tie-break and a double-fault from Murray then handed the American the first mini-break.
Two more huge first serves secured Isner three set points at 6-3 and a crunching forehand deservedly clinched him the set to level the match.
Murray’s energy levels in the decider were impressive and he dropped only four points on serve to lead 4-3, and although Isner appeared to tire, his first serve remained unplayable as he levelled it up at 4-4.
Isner, who has now lost his three ATP Tour finals, pushed Murray all the way in the ninth game of the decider but the Briton held, forcing Isner to serve to stay in the match.
A dipping backhand from Murray secured him a rare break point and he seized his chance at the first attempt to break Isner for the second time to seal the match, and the title.
Andy Murray’s 2016 in numbers
8 - Number of titles won
12 - Finals contested
3 - Murray won his third grand slam title at Wimbledon
2 - Success in Rio brought him a second Olympic gold medal
74 - Matches won
9 - Matches lost
22 - The longest unbeaten stretch of Murray’s career came between the French Open in June and Cincinnati in August
5 - Murray became the first player to win five titles at Queen’s Club
10,948,552 - Prize money in US dollars (£8.75million at current exchange rate)
527 - Aces