Andy Murray may have captured the US Open and Olympic titles, but he insisted yesterday that Roger Federer and vanquished New York rival Novak Djokovic remain the standout players of 2012.
British leaders, tennis chiefs and former players hailed the Scot after he became the first British man to win a grand slam in 76 years. Murray, 25, defeated world No 2 and defending champion Djokovic 7-6 (12-10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 in an epic final.
Twenty-nine of the previous 30 majors had been won by either Federer, Djokovic or Rafael Nadal - the three men who also divided up the year's other three grand slam titles between them.
"I don't think I have had the best year on the tour. The last few months have been great for me, but there is more to the tennis tour than just the grand slams," said Murray, who was also Britain's first Wimbledon finalist since Bunny Austin in 1938.
"Novak has played great tennis in most of the Masters Series as well. Roger has got himself back to No 1. I think it is important to remember the tennis season starts in January and finishes in November.
"There are four slams, but there are also many other tournaments to get to No 1 in the world. I think if you're No 1 you deserve to be the player of the year. I would say Novak or Roger would be the best players this year."
Federer won a 17th grand slam title this summer with a seventh Wimbledon to match the mark of Pete Sampras.
Djokovic won the Australian Open, while Nadal, absent from the US Open through injury, blazed through the clay-court season before claiming a record seventh French Open in June.
While Murray was reluctant to praise himself, there were plenty of others willing to do so.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said his triumph was continuing Britain's "golden summer of sport" following the Olympics and Paralympics.
Meanwhile, British tennis insiders praised the influence of coach Ivan Lendl in turning Murray into a grand slam champion.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said Murray was now a "legend" in his homeland.
"Congratulations to Andy Murray on what was a fantastic performance," Salmond said.
"This is another brilliant win over Novak Djokovic and continues an amazing year for Andy.
"Now Olympic and US Open champion, Andy truly is a Scottish sporting legend and I'm certain that more grand slam titles will follow."
Roger Draper, chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association, the sport's governing body in Britain, said Murray winning the Olympic men's singles gold medal last month and following it up with the US Open title was "a phenomenal achievement".
He said: "He's done it in an era where you've got not just Roger Federer - who's the greatest player that's probably ever lived - but you've got Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic as well."
Murray said he was happy to keep measuring himself against his three greatest rivals, despite many in the sport sympathising with his struggles to win a major in such a golden era.
"Playing against these guys makes you much better.
"When you see physically how strong someone like Rafa is, then that drives you. You see also how hard he works," explained Murray.
"That makes you realise what you have to do nowadays to get to the top of the game and to compete with those guys. I have obviously played Roger many times, as well.
"Just the way that he plays, the consistency that he's shown over the last seven, eight, nine, 10 years, I think it's going to be tough to see that again.
"Novak, the last few years, you see the way he moves around the court. He took things on a hard court to a new level.
"I'm very happy to be part of this era in tennis."