Andy Murray Wins Record Third SPOTY Award
It probably wasn’t a surprise to anyone (certainly not to this blog), but Andy Murray broke yet another record. Last night he picked up a third BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award. This makes Murray the first person in the history of the award to do so.
Olympic gold ✅
ATP Tour title ✅
Year-end world number one ✅
3-time #SPOTY winner ✅
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) December 18, 2016
It caps off a year that has seen the Scot achieve much. Become a father, win a second Wimbledon title, a first World Tour Finals, and reach number one in the world.
It seems most of the planet just wanted 2016 to be over. You could forgive Murray for not being one of them.
In his acceptance speech—made from Miami where he’s training—he joked that his wife had voted for Nick Skelton. Then again, Kim is loyally in Murray’s player’s box for most of his games. I’m sure he’s not too upset about it.
Indeed, Murray did just fine without Kim’s ballot. He received nearly a quarter of a million votes—over twice that of second-placed Triathlete, Alistair Brownlee.
It should be said that this award—or any award voted for by the public—is all about perception. It could be argued that Brownlee would not have done so well had he not gone viral in Mexico. He became the first man to retain the Olympic triathlon title in Rio this year. Video of him sacrificing his own success in the Triathlon World Series in Mexico to help his heat-exhausted brother over the finish line melted the hearts of many, however, and probably did more to get him a second place here than his record-breaking Olympic achievements.
Similarly for Murray, nobody can deny his achievements in 2016. Only in an era with Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic could a year like this could look par for the course. But no other British sports personality has been as visible, as talked about, as the man from Dunblane. Even during the Olympics, when all eyes were on Rio and the rest of the athletic world had a chance to shine, Murray was there taking gold for a record second time.
As I said in the post linked to at the top this post, I believe Andy Murray is fully deserving of this award. The fact that he had previously won the award twice shouldn’t have been a factor, and thankfully wasn’t.
— TENNIS.com (@Tennis) December 19, 2016
Andy Murray’s Future
The obvious problem Murray now faces is following up what was undoubtedly the best year of his career so far. At 29 years old there is a valid argument to be made that he is too old to catch the rest of the Big Four in terms Grand Slam titles or weeks at number one. My main worry is that Murray will fall into a malaise similar to the one Djokovic seems to be in. Having achieved so much this year, it must be tempting to take it a little easier, spend a little more time at home, and settle for a few semi-final paydays rather than going for the trophy.
I don’t think Murray has it in him to “settle”, but the worry is there.
Career Super Slam
If I were Murray, I’d be focusing on the few remaining milestones left to him. An Australian and French Open title would nab Murray a career Slam, something the other Big Four members have all managed. It would mean more for Murray, however, because they are all that stands between him and a “Career Super Slam”. That’s all the Slams, Olympic gold, and the World Tour Finals. Andre Agassi has achieved this, but none of the Big Four have. Indeed, it seems likely that Murray and Nadal are the only ones who can.
Murray needs an Australian and French Open title to complete the set, and Nadal just needs an ATP World Tour Finals trophy. Both Federer and Djokovic need an Olympic gold medal and, with the next Olympic games four years away, it’s not unreasonable to assume they might have missed their chance.
The Masters Set
The other big and entirely achievable goal for Murray to aim for is the complete Masters set. No player in the history of men’s tennis has ever won all of the Masters events on the tour. Djokovic is closest with eight of the nine titles, but with Murray being one behind him, it’s far from an impossible goal. In fact, as the two Masters events Murray is missing are Indian Wells and Monte-Carlo—the first and third Masters events of the year respectively—Murray could feasibly break this record in the first quarter of 2017.
So, assuming Murray’s run of dominance continues, it’s unlikely he’s going to be challenging Federer’s record of seventeen Grand Slam titles, or Djokovic’s thirty Masters titles, or establish a run of dominance similar to Nadal’s time as the King of Clay, but there are things left to achieve.
And Murray is definitely capable of achieving them.