Benefitting from injury to Canadian Milos Raonic may not have been the ideal way for Andy Murray to underline his fairy-tale journey to the top of men's tennis – though in many ways given the understated nature of his confirmation as the sport's premier performer it is very likely he would not have had it any other way. The Scot has forever lived his life in the shadows, even disenchanting those with his reserved demeanour, but now he has been propelled into the British sporting spotlight like never before.
Of the statistics which accompany Murray's confirmation as the world's leading player, none is more striking than the names of the other players to have topped the rankings since 2004, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Murray may not have a quantity of grand slam titles to compete with the trio, but he has now achieved a measure of consistently which defines the very greatest of sportspeople, regardless of the era.
That Murray has broken into this elite band, legends of the sport in their own right, is the true barometer of his achievement. Many Brits can claim to have reached the pinnacle of their sport – Team GB's record-breaking medal haul at Rio 2016 can testify to that – but few will have done it in quite the same world-class company. An injured Federer and Nadal and a tiring Djokovic on the wane matters little.
With two Wimbledon and Olympic titles, a Davis Cup crown and the US Open, Murray was already assured of hanging up his racket knowing his status among modern-day sporting greats to hail from Great Britain was assured. Jessica-Ennis-Hill, Jonny Wilkinson and Joe Calzaghe were among his contemporaries, while a pair BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards meant he has also earned public acclaim.
But you can't help but feel that having become just the 26<sup>th man to stand atop of men's tennis since the rankings were introduced in 1973 that Murray – though he'd prefer to ignore it– he entered a new realm of sporting great. He now lives among the icons of any generation; Daley Thompson, Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Ian Botham and Lennox Lewis have extra company on British sport's very own cloud nine.
The debate over where Murray sits in that hierarchy will inevitably go on long into the night – though perhaps not in his home town of Dunblane – but what is vital to understand is the complexity of putting together a 12-month tennis season of utter consistency and brilliance. Players are always forced to plan rigorously ahead, yet those procedures can be thrown into chaos by a single point, a net cord or an errant line judge. The margins are finer than in many other sports, not to mention the relentless physicality that is required to just compete at the highest level.
Murray is now tasked with producing consistency as the hunted rather than the hunter, a challenge which separates the very best and it is yet to be seen whether that can be achieved heading into the ATP World Tour Finals in London. But for now, let's bask into the 29-year-old's status as a fully-fledged member of British sporting royalty. And long may it continue.