PARIS • Andy Murray was born a week before Novak Djokovic and won the pair's first junior tussle on the tennis court. Since then he has spent his professional career playing catch-up to the Serb.
Yesterday in Paris - where five months earlier he was powerless to prevent Djokovic completing a career Grand Slam by winning their French Open final - the Scot finally caught up with his elusive rival.
His semi-final walkover - after Canada's Milos Raonic pulled out of their Paris Masters semi-final with a muscle tear - means Murray will rise to No. 1 in the world for the first time, ending Djokovic's 122-week stay atop the rankings.
"To get to No. 1 isn't about today, but it's about 12 months of tournaments to get to this stage," said the three-time major champion, who will become Britain's first world No. 1 tomorrow. "The last few months have been the best of my career and I am very proud to have reached No. 1. It has been a goal of mine for the past few years."
The 29-year-old is the oldest to debut at No. 1 since John Newcombe in 1974 and the 26th player to reach the top since rankings were introduced.
Murray has hunted 12-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic relentlessly. He trailed the Serb by 8,035 points after that June day in Paris. No. 1 looked like mission impossible but some cracks appeared in the Djokovic facade when he fell early at Wimbledon.
Murray's path opened up further on Friday when he defeated Tomas Berdych 7-6 (11-9), 7-5 in the quarter-finals. Earlier, Djokovic had lost 4-6, 6-7 (2-7) to Croatia's Marin Cilic. The Serb needed to reach the final to remain ahead of Murray but he lost to Cilic for the first time in 15 meetings.
"Credit to Marin and congratulations. He definitely played better today, and he deserved to win," he said before reiterating his current priority was not the rankings.
"I have to get to, first of all, that state of mind where I'm able to perform as well as I want to, match after match," said the 29-year-old.
"A lot of emotions went through my mind and body in the last two years with the things that I was blessed to achieve, obviously, and the career Grand Slam this year.
"But it took a lot out of me and it has put some things in perspective and, obviously, raised some questions in which direction I want to go. So it's going to take some time for me to redefine all these things."
Murray will hope to cap a memorable week by winning his first Paris Masters title. He will face John Isner, the American who defeated Cilic 6-4, 6-3 yesterday, in the final.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
ATP BNP PARIBAS MASTERS
Final: StarHub Ch201, 10pm