SHANGHAI: Andy Murray has never been the most fashionable member of tennis’s ‘Big Four’, but he finally looks the part as he zeroes in on the world No 1 spot.
Winning back-to-back titles in China without dropping a set tells its own story, and underlines the consensus that Murray is currently the world’s best player.
The 29-year-old swept past Roberto Bautista Agut to win his third Shanghai Masters title on Sunday, lifting his sixth trophy in what has been his best season yet.
It could get better for Murray, who can overtake Novak Djokovic at the top of the rankings with wins in Vienna and Paris, provided the Serb doesn’t reach the Paris final.
It hasn’t done Murray any harm that Djokovic has suffered a sudden and perplexing dip in form, and that Roger Federer is sidelined by injury.
Rafael Nadal is also a fading force but Murray would be a deserving successor as the last of the four, who have 46 Grand Slam titles between them, to reach number one.
What’s more, Murray, often marked out for his anguished demeanour on court, is growing into the role of eminent tour-leader in the mould of Djokovic and Federer before him.
The one-time gawky kid still berates himself during matches but he is far more comfortable with the media, giving fulsome and intelligent answers to all questions.
He is also prepared to defend and mentor younger players such as the wayward Nick Kyrgios, whose latest on-court meltdown resulted in a fine in Shanghai.
Physically, too, Murray is at his peak, with supreme fitness and acceleration that can shift his now-hulking frame around the court at frightening speeds.