WORLD number one Sir Andy Murray has strengthened his position at the top of the rankings despite being beaten by Novak Djokovic in the final of the Qatar Open last week.
Murray took his place at the summit of the men’s game after a scintillating run in the second half of 2016 saw him usurp Djokovic and end the Serbian’s 122-week reign as world number one.
The Scot, knighted in the New Year’s Honours list, is tipped to dominate 2017 but Djokovic brought a sense of normality back when he won a thrilling three-set final in Doha on Saturday.
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However, despite that loss Murray actually extended his lead at the top due to the nature of the rankings.
Djokovic won the title last year and was defending 250 points so his tally remains the same while because Murray played in the Hopman Cup – a non-ranking exhibition event – the 150 points he won for finishing runner-up is added to his total, extending the gap to 630 points.
Therefore Murray is guaranteed to be number one seed for the Australian Open, which starts next week, though will lose his crown to Djokovic if the Serbian retains his title in Melbourne and he does not make the semi-finals. Kyle Edmund’s birthday celebrations were ruined as he was dumped out of the Apia International Sydney by qualifier Matthew Barton.
The British number two, who took a set off three-time grand slam winner Stan Wawrinka in Brisbane last week, turned 22 on Sunday but his party was cut short by the world number 198, who won the first-round clash 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/5).
The first set was a server’s paradise as Edmund and Barton forced just one break point apiece, neither converted, which left the Australian to take the tie-break.
The second set was a similar story, but Edmund’s chance came when he earned a set point at 5-4, but Barton fought hard to hold his serve and then claimed the match in a second tie-break. There was better news for British number three Dan Evans, who got past Thiago Monteiro in three sets. Evans triumphed 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to register his first win on the ATP Tour since the US Open last September.
He broke twice on the way to a comfortable first set but then found the tables turned as the Brazilian broke twice to level it up.
A nervous final set saw two breaks exchanged, but when Evans got the decisive third it left him to serve it out for the match, which he did without problem. Elsewhere, Anne Keothavong has named Johanna Konta, Heather Watson and Laura Robson in her first Fed Cup squad as Great Britain captain.