Ten months ago, just before the start of Wimbledon, Andy Murray appeared on a popular British television chat show.
As the host gushed over the virtues of the young Scot and his developing career, the London audience burst into a chorus of excited applause, no doubt thrilled by the thought of a genuine homegrown contender for the world's most storied tournament.
Murray though, seemed slightly bemused by it all. He was British number one, No.11 in the world, and he didn't think it was anything to write home about.
Part of what makes Murray's ascent to the top table of the men's game so remarkable is that he has had to break through a stereotype of underachievement coursing through British tennis.
Tim Henman was much loved and admired, but a breathless UK public hoped, not expected, him to perform at Wimbledon. For Murray, the biggest burden of pressure he has to shoulder is the demands of excellence he places upon himself - and the results are plain to see.
Last weekend's triumph in Miami was his third Masters Series title out of the last five and 11th career victory (matching Henman's career tally). It puts him in a position where he is virtually certain to overtake No. 3 Novak Djokovic in the rankings by the end of the French Open.
Indeed, unless Roger Federer can eliminate the demons from his game that plagued him during hard court season, the Swiss superstar's No. 2 spot is very much under threat too.
Murray's record since the start of the U.S Open is 47-5 and in Miami he sat very comfortably with his status as one of the world's best. When Djokovic tried to put together the sort of revival that had accounted for Federer in the semi-final, Murray put his foot on the gas once more, reeling off five straight games to take the title.
Until Murray wins a Grand Slam then it will always be Rafael Nadal and Federer who are considered the kings of men's tennis. Yet the recent evidence suggests Murray's time isn't coming. It is now.
Roger Federer's comments after crashing out in Miami provided a remarkable insight into the tortured mindset of the 13-time Grand Slam winner. Federer admitted he was glad the North American hardcourt campaign was over and claimed he was pleased to be heading to the red clay of Europe. Understandable words for a mid-ranked journeyman with a clay-court game, but not from a man who has won the past five U.S Opens.
USE YOUR FREQUENT FLYER MILES
Get yourself to Houston this week, for the U.S Men's Clay Court Championship at River Oaks. With a string of top Americans (minus Andy Roddick), reasonably priced tickets and Texan hospitality, what's not to like?
Women's tennis hailed a new star last weekend as Victoria Azarenka burst through to win the Sony Ericsson Open. The 19-year-old from Belarus has risen rapidly over the past two seasons and was tipped for success, but finally showed her big-match mentality by crushing Serena Williams in the final.
LAST WEEK'S RESULTS
Sony Ericsson Open, Miami: Andy Murray
Sony Ericsson Open, Miami: Victoria Azarenka
THIS WEEK'S PREDICTIONS
The Monday Slice's hopes of returning to form this week look shaky, with the start of clay court season always fraught with unpredictability. We've gone against Serena Williams in Marbella purely due to doubts that she can even finish the event due to injury. Jelena Jankovic's woeful form makes her impossible to back. James Blake is the only man in the top 20 in action this week, in Houston.
Grand Prix Hassan II, Casablanca: Marc Gicquel
U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships, Houston: Jeremy Chardy
MPS Group Championships, Ponte Vedra Beach: Caroline Wozniacki
Andalucia Tennis Experience, Marbella: Kaia Kanepi
- Roger Federer