His disappointment at losing was obvious, but the tone of Andy Murray's voice suggested that defeat in the first round of the Nasdaq-100 Open here could be a blessing in disguise.
"I've been away for about six weeks and it's quite tough mentally to keep getting up for every match," the British No 1 said after losing 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 to Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka. "I just didn't have enough left in the tank to sustain a high level." If Murray's occasionally petulant performance was a reminder that he is still only 18, his measured assessment of his achievements showed that he retains a sense of perspective. It is, after all, only 11 months since he made his senior debut and he returns to Britain having achieved the major goal he had set for his winter trip to the United States, that of reaching the world's top 50, and having won his first tournament, in San Jose last month.
"This is all pretty new for me," Murray said. "I know in these big tournaments that you've got to raise your level, because these are the ones that all the guys have to play well in to improve their ranking. I've learned a lot. I've seen things that I need to improve on."
One of those improvements might be to try to pace matches at a tempo that suits him. At times in the first set Murray played delightfully, consistently finding a good length and making the unpredictable and erratic Wawrinka play every ball. The Scot led 5-3, but two poor service games cost him the set.
Wawrinka, ranked 17 places below Murray at 58, paid a similar price in the second set, winning only one point in his last two service games. Murray had been making plenty of errors, however, and in the third set seemed to let his frustrations get the better of him, hurrying too many of his shots. He recovered from two breaks down to level at 4-4, but a combination of more mistakes and Wawrinka's controlled aggression saw the Swiss through.
While Murray admitted that he was looking forward to taking a break over the next week, an ankle injury he suffered against Wawrinka is a slight concern. Jeremy Bates, Britain's Davis Cup captain, will be anxious that Murray is fit for next month's match against Serbia and Montenegro in Glasgow. Having failed to persuade Tim Henman to come out of Davis Cup retirement, Bates suffered a further setback when Alex Bogdanovic said that he did not feel ready to play.
The tie would have pitted Bogdanovic against the country of his birth, the British No 4 having lived in the former Yugoslavia until he was eight. James Auckland, the 10th-ranked Briton, is his replacement, alongside Murray, Greg Rusedski and Arvind Parmar. Rusedskirecorded an impressive 6-3, 6-1 victory here yesterday over Mikhail Youzhny and now faces Juan Ignacio Chela, of Argentina.