Sports Personality of the Year: Why Andy Murray should winHere, the world's number one tennis player Novak Djokovic backs rival Andy Murray.
As turnarounds go, Andy Murray's sporting summer represented a renaissance as remarkable as it was unprecedented in a British sport for so long on life support.
Reaching the singles final of Wimbledon - the first British man to do so in several lifetimes - should never have felt like a failure, regardless of the tears that followed his four-set defeat to Roger Federer. By itself it was a landmark, even if the final ascension was by Swiss rather than Scot.
Those who had always doubted Murray were loud with their told-you-so's. Even the believers wondered if nearly would ever convert to now. Few in either camp realised on that soggy July Sunday afternoon that the best was still to come. Twice.
Four weeks later, this time in bright Centre Court sunshine rather than under roof and lights, came the first golden wonder: Federer, dispatched in three chanceless sets, to make Murray Olympic champion 96 years after the last Briton to win tennis gold, Josiah Ritchie.
If that was redemption, exultation was to follow at the US Open in New York the following month. Up against Novak Djokovic, reigning champion and so often Murray's nemesis, the 25-year-old did at his 28th attempt what no British male had done for 76 years and triumphed in a Grand Slam final.
Murray being Murray, Djokovic being Djokovic, it was never going to be easy. But in coming through 7-6 (12-10) 7-5 2-6 3-6 6-2 Murray not only produced a late-night thriller in the city that never sleeps but ended one of the great historical hoodoos.
"Andy had a fantastic year," Djokovic told BBC Sport. "To win his first Grand Slam title, in New York, and to win the Olympic Games which only come around every four years - it could barely be more satisfying for him.
"Winning in London in front of his home crowd after reaching the final of Wimbledon a few weeks earlier - he has been playing the tennis of his life."
Murray, soundly beaten in all four of his previous Grand Slam finals, studied the lessons of those painful defeats and produced a blueprint for 2012 that could match the best and then overcome them.
Murray Mk II had greater mental resilience, fewer descents into self-recrimination, stronger powers of concentration. There was more aggression on court, a beefed-up forehand and a more unyielding serve.
In his camp he had Ivan Lendl, emotionless automaton and perfect exemplar for a player who had been so close for so long. In the stands at Flushing Meadow he even had James Bond, although Sean Connery's patent nervousness as the match entered its fifth set was matched in knotted British stomachs around the world.
"From my point of view, Andy has improved such a lot and he has more confidence on the court," says Djokovic.
"He is very professional, he is very competitive. He has a big team of people around him, and that's the way to do it - he's trying to take care of every single detail in his career so that he can feel comfortable in big matches and play to his absolute best.
"In 2012 he got more aggressive on court, going for his shots more, particularly on his first shot after his serve.
"That was a big change. He is now a very complete player, for all of us who have to face him: a player who can win on any surface."
Murray has not always found universal appreciation from his compatriots. He has never sought the sporting fan's approval nor attempted to project a persona that was anything but the reality: a man intent only on tennis and pushing himself as far as he could in it.
The inaccurate image many had of him - taciturn, detached, cool in the face of public ferment - changed for good with his Centre Court confession after that Wimbledon defeat.
He had cried on court before, most notably after semi-final defeat to Djokovic at the Australian Open in January, but this was rawer still: eyes scrunched, voice disintegrating, hands over face.
In that moment there was instant empathy, and then sustained compassion, from the thousands around Centre Court and the millions more watching at home. He had tried, and he had got closer than ever before.
It made all that happened in the next few extraordinary weeks all the more resonant. Murray had requested a few moments alone on Centre at the start of the Olympic tournament, just to make sure those raw wounds were ready for more potential punishment.
In the event, the punishment was dished out to others - to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round, Djokovic in the semis and Federer, once again world number one, in that giddy final. He lost only one set all week, and that in the second round.
In New York there would be tougher battles, not least in the swirling gales that pulled apart his semi-final win over Tomas Berdych, and none more so than in the final against Djokovic.
Murray took the first set on a tie-break, the second with a single late break. At two sets up in a Grand Slam final he was in uncharted territory; two hours later, at two sets all and with all the momentum with his garlanded rival, he was staring at a horribly familiar reverse.
Not this time, in this summer.
"Vote for Andy Murray for BBC Sports Personality," says Djokovic. "I only wish I could vote myself." http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/sports-personality/20514276