LONDON • Andy Murray's route to securing the year-end world No. 1 ranking looks fraught with danger after the top seed was grouped with Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic for the ATP World Tour Finals in London.
Murray, who reached the No. 1 ranking for the first time on Monday to end Novak Djokovic's 122-week reign, will begin his group round-robin matches on Monday against in-form Croatian Cilic.
Djokovic, whose form has dipped since he completed his career Grand Slam by winning the French Open in June, was placed in an easier-looking group with tournament debutants Gael Monfils and Dominic Thiem and Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic.
He has a combined 23-0 career record against that trio, leading Frenchman Monfils 13-0, Canadian Raonic 7-0 and Austrian Thiem 3-0.
The 12-time Grand Slam champion will open on Sunday against world No. 9 Thiem.
Murray, on the other hand, has had mixed results against his group rivals this year.
DO A NUMBER ON HIS OPPONENTS
It's nice to play in London ranked one, but once you are on the court, you are not thinking about your ranking.
ANDY MURRAY, the first British singles tennis player to be world No. 1 since the ATP rankings were introduced, on staying focused.
He lost to Nishikori in the US Open quarter-finals after beating the Japanese at the Rio Olympics and in the Davis Cup.
He has also lost three of his last four matches against world No. 3 Wawrinka, including in last year's group stage, although he did beat the Swiss in their only meeting this year in the French Open semi-finals.
The Scot was also beaten by former US Open champion Cilic in their last meeting, in the Cincinnati final, but he defeated the Croatian in the Queen's Club semi-finals in June.
To ensure his first taste of the No. 1 position lasts more than two weeks, Murray must match or better Djokovic's performance at the Tour Finals, a tournament the Serb has won for the last four years.
Murray currently holds a 405-point lead over the Serb but his record at London's O2 Arena has been unimpressive.
In seven previous appearances he has never reached the final, losing three times at the semi-final stage.
Djokovic has been dominant for the past four years, losing only one round-robin match in that time.
With 1,500 points available for an undefeated champion next week, the tournament could produce a thrilling climax with Murray and Djokovic facing off in the final for the year-end No. 1 ranking.
The duo have never met at the O2.
"It's nice to play in London ranked one, but once you are on the court, you are not thinking about your ranking," Murray told the ATP website.
"It's the top eight players and every match will be tough. I look forward to getting out there and playing at the O2.
"I'll try and take a few days' rest now, start hitting again on Thursday. I need a few days' break.
"It will be one big push for all the guys. Everyone has played a lot of tennis and hopefully everyone can play well."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS