Andy Murray hoping the Big Four rivalry is back firing on all cylinders
Andy Murray is hoping all his big rivals will offer him competition for the number one ranking in 2017.
The Scot overcame a deficit of more than 8,000 points following his defeat by Novak Djokovic in the French Open final in June to overhaul the Serbian ahead of the ATP World Tour Finals in London.
By triumphing in the winner-takes-all showdown with Djokovic in the final at London's O2 Arena, Murray ensured he will take a 630-point lead at the head of the standings into 2017.
And, by beating the players ranked two, three, four, five and six at the end of the season, Murray proved without doubt that he deserves his place at the top of the tennis world.
He said: "I hope these next few years are exciting."
Critics will point to the decline of the other 'big four' members for allowing Murray finally to come out from their shadow.
Djokovic has won only one title since that famous day at Roland Garros when he became the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four grand slam trophies, and his troubles were clear for all to see on Sunday.
The Serbian's groundstrokes lacked their usual authority, his footwork was sluggish and his tally of 30 unforced errors was far too high against a player of Murray's calibre.
Djokovic has admitted to feelings of burnout following his French Open victory and he will need to work hard over the off-season to restore lost confidence in his game.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have both been beset by injuries in 2016, the former for the first time in his career.
Federer played only seven tournaments in 2016 and dramatically cut short his season in July in a bid to recover fully from knee surgery.
Nadal had looked to be getting back to top form heading into the French Open but tearfully pulled out during the tournament with a wrist injury.
He rushed his return in order to play at the Olympics and performed better than expected in Rio but struggled thereafter and ended his season prematurely last month.
Federer is now 35 and Nadal 30, and there must be serious doubts about how much of a force they can be going forward, but Murray, for one, hopes they can recapture some past glories.
The Scot said: "This year I think has been hard in some ways because of Roger and Rafa missing large parts of the year. They have massive fan bases, not just for everything they've achieved on the court, but because they're obviously charismatic guys and are very, very popular.
"If the two of them can come back and be healthy, then some of the younger guys who I think are going to be great players, a few of them are really exciting personalities, as well, with exciting games. I think tennis is in a good place just now. It would be better if the two of them were fit."
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have all had periods of sustained dominance and, although Murray is nearly 30 himself, he has never been in better shape physically and is undoubtedly playing the best tennis of his career.
The Wimbledon champion insisted he has never considered the possibility of a 'Murray era' but is determined to seize the chance to add to his three grand slam titles.
He said: "I'd obviously want to try and achieve as much as I can these next few years because I'm not going to be around forever. I'm not going to be able to play at this level and play this many matches into my mid-30s.
"These next few years, obviously I want to try and make them the best of my career, try and win as much as I can. But it's going to be tough because, as you get older, the young guys are going to keep improving and getting better."
Murray was planning a celebratory meal with his team last night, while the rest of his two-week break was set to revolve around his father Willie's stag do and wedding in Scotland.
The 29-year-old will then head to Miami for a rigorous pre-season training camp before a brief spell at home over Christmas.
His 2017 season will start at the grandly-titled Mubadala World Tennis Championship, an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi beginning on December 29.
Murray will fully expect Djokovic to come back rejuvenated in the new season, although the Serbian was reluctant to look ahead following his defeat in London.
Djokovic must also decide whether to continue with what has been a hugely successful three-year coaching partnership with Boris Becker.
"Right now the goal is just to rest a little bit," said Djokovic.
"It's been a long season, a very nice year, a lot to reflect on, a lot to take in. But it's time to leave the racket aside for a little bit, just recover, then I'll start thinking about next season."