Monday, 21 November 2016 12:10 PM GMT
Murray joins elite group with ATP Finals victory

It reads like a list of the greatest of the greats, and now Andy Murray has joined them. Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Lleyton Hewitt, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are the only other men to have won the Gentlemen’s Singles title at The Championships and gone on to finish the season with victory at the year-end tournament.

As Murray reflects on joining that elite group by winning the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals for the first time, he might like to consider the names of some of the men who were unable to complete the double. All England Club champions who have been unable to sustain their Wimbledon form to the very end of their triumphant seasons include Rafael Nadal, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Andre Agassi. 

Federer shares the record for Gentlemen’s Singles titles at The Championships (seven) with William Renshaw and Pete Sampras, while nobody yet has matched his mark of six titles at the year-end championships, which were first staged in 1970. He won the two events in the same year on four occasions, in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007.

Was the Swiss ever more dominant than in 2006? He won 12 titles that year and lost only five matches. At The Championships his superiority was summed up by his 6-2, 6-0, 6-2 semi-final victory over Jonas Bjorkman in just 77 minutes. The only set he dropped was in his 6-0, 7-6(5), 6-7(2), 6-3 victory over Nadal in the final. At the year-end championships Federer won all five of his matches, beating James Blake in the final.

Sampras completed the same Wimbledon/year-end double three times, in 1994, 1997 and 1999, with the first of those years arguably his greatest season. At The Championships the only set Sampras dropped was in his 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 semi-final victory over Todd Martin.

Sampras, who knocked out five fellow Americans at Wimbledon that year, beat Goran Ivanisevic 7-6(2), 7-6(5), 6-0 in the final. At the year-end championships Sampras lost to Becker in the round-robin stage but went on to beat the German in the final.

The first year-end finals took place in Tokyo in December 1970. The inaugural Pepsi-Cola Masters featured Arthur Ashe, Zeljko Franulovic, Jan Kodes, Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and Stan Smith. Rosewall was the only player who had made even the quarter-finals at The Championships that year, eventually losing to John Newcombe in the final.

Smith, who would go on to reach his first Gentlemen’s Singles final at Wimbledon the following year, was the first year-end champion. For its first two editions the event consisted of a single round-robin group, in which everyone played each other. Smith secured his triumph by beating Rosewall in his penultimate match.

Twelve months later the competition moved to Paris, where Ilie Nastase took the title by winning all his group matches in the last year before the event changed to what is its current format. The Romanian dominated the year-end competition in the early years, winning it four times between 1971 and 1975 and finishing runner-up to Guillermo Vilas on the other occasion.

Throughout that time Nastase was a great favourite at The Championships, where he claimed the Gentlemen’s Doubles in 1973 alongside Connors and the mixed doubles in 1970 and 1972 in partnership with Rosie Casals.

It was not until 1979 that Borg became the first reigning male All England Club singles champion to add the year-end title. His Wimbledon triumph was his fourth in a row, but victory did not come easily. Borg had to come back from two sets to one down against Vijay Amritraj in the second round, dropped sets against Tom Gorman and Brian Teacher and was pushed hard in the final by Roscoe Tanner before grinding out a 6-7(4), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.

By then the year-end championships, which had been rebranded as The Masters, had found a regular home at Madison Square Garden in New York. Borg beat McEnroe in the semi-finals and Vitas Gerulaitis in the final.

Borg repeated the double feat a year later. At The Championships he won his fifth title in a row by beating McEnroe 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7(16), 8-6 in one of the greatest finals in Centre Court history and he retained his Masters title by beating Ivan Lendl 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. Lendl, who never won Wimbledon, claimed five year-end titles and was also runner-up three times over an eight-year period.

McEnroe (in 1983 and 1984) and Djokovic (in 2014 and 2015) are the only other players who have done the double twice. In 1983 McEnroe won his second Wimbledon title by beating the unseeded Chris Lewis 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 in the final and went on to win the Masters without dropping a set.

The following year McEnroe crushed Connors 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 in the final at The Championships and rounded off his most successful campaign by winning his 13th title of the season at the Masters, where he brushed aside Lendl 7-5, 6-0, 6-4 in the final.

Djokovic’s two doubles both came at the expense of Federer, who lost to the Serb in the finals at The Championships and the World Tour Finals in both years. But it was the Serbian's turn to play the victim on Sunday night, with Murray claiming his place amongst this most esteemed of companies courtesy of a 6-3, 6-4 win.