PARIS (Reuters) - He is the man who sparked joyous scenes of celebration across a grateful nation when he ended Britain’s 77-year wait for a Wimbledon men’s champion.
Yet 14 months later Andy Murray’s towering frame was missing from the eight-man lineup featured on the giant billboard posters plastered across the streets of London to advertise the ATP World Tour Finals.
While organizers scramble to replace the out-of-date banners -- proclaiming “Get Ready London. They’re Back” -- with ones featuring Murray, the Scot is unlikely to lose any sleep over the omission.
What he will be more keen to focus on will be the thought of completing a unique treble of London titles.
Having bagged a gold medal from the 2012 London Olympics and won the 2013 Wimbledon championship, Murray will get his first chance to complete the hat-trick at the O2 next week after missing last year’s season finale following back surgery.
“It (winning the treble) would definitely mean a lot,” Murray told Reuters in an interview in the run-up to the Tour Finals.
”I know what it takes to win at the highest level so I will just make sure I prepare myself in the best possible way to give myself the best chance of success, but I am playing well and enjoying it right now.
“It was disappointing not playing last year when I had to withdraw because of my back. It has been a tough year, but I feel like I am fully fit now, and have had a great last six weeks and I can’t wait to return to the O2,” added Murray, who has also won three Queen’s Club titles in the capital city.
“You do appreciate how much you enjoy the sport and how much you enjoy playing when you are unable to do it. That was tough last year.”
It certainly has been a remarkable six weeks for Murray.
Following his quarter-final exit at the U.S. Open, he dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in over six years.
That sparked fears among home fans that Murray might miss out on the season finale but the 27-year-old was soon enjoying the benefits of a punishing fitness regime that sees him train even on Christmas Day.
He survived five match points against Tommy Robredo to emerge victorious in Shenzhen. The Scot subdued David Ferrer in three exhausting sets in the Vienna final.
He then left Robredo jokingly showing him the middle finger after the Spaniard saw another five match points vanish as Murray triumphed in Valencia.
“With my ranking having dropped a bit and obviously I hadn’t won a tournament for a while... last four of five weeks have been very good for that,” said Murray, who only secured his place for the ATP Finals during last week’s Paris Masters.
Declaring that “it has been three or four years since I felt so well”, he is raring to get going again.
”The way the finals have been won, I saved (five) match points in two of them and also in the third one Ferrer was serving for the match (in Vienna). So they have been very, very tight, close matches so it has been nice to get a few wins.
“I don’t know how I‘m going to feel in a week’s time but, providing I do all the right stuff to prepare, if I get enough rest, and recovery... I’ve played enough matches, I’ve played enough tennis to give it a good go there.”
It seems many of his rivals also think Murray is doing the “right stuff”.
Three years after he pulled off a coup by hooking up with eight-times grand slam champion Ivan Lendl, the players’ lounge at the O2 will be buzzing with the presence of no less than five ‘super coaches’.
While Murray is now guided by Amelie Mauresmo, ‘80s rivals Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg will be on hand to oversee the progress of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer respectively.
Goran Ivanisevic and Michael Chang will also be at the Tour Finals with London debutants Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori.
So does Murray think of himself as bit of a trend setter in tennis?
“I don’t try to do things that are left field. You would think that working with previous great tennis players would be helpful, in my view it wasn’t thinking outside the box,” said Murray, whose union with Lendl helped him win two grand slam titles and an Olympic gold.
”Sometimes people are maybe worried to ask to see if they (former champions) want to do it because it’s a lot of time, and traveling. It’s a big commitment to coach on the tour and not many people who have played for 10-12 years want to go straight back and want to do it.
“With Ivan that obviously worked out well in terms of results so I‘m sure some players would have looked at that... and saw that maybe that would work.”
The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals will be held at The O2 in London from Nov 9-16.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury