I'll return stronger and US Open is my best chance, vows Murray

Time for driving lessons and a new home as world No 3 moves on quickly from sad exit
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The Independent Online

It is time to put away the tennis racket, take some driving lessons and make the new house feel like home. The tennis year is barely past the halfway stage, yet Andy Murray has already played 52 matches – he has won 45 of them, a record bettered only by Novak Djokovic – and is looking forward to a well-earned rest. He will not play again until the next Masters Series tournament in Montreal in five weeks' time.

"I'll definitely take some time off and spend a couple of weeks here and then go over to Miami for a couple of weeks," Murray said in the wake of his semi-final defeat to Andy Roddick. "I have a new house to sort out, so I'll be busy doing that for the next few weeks. Then I'll go over to the States and train over there in the hot weather."

If there was disappointment that Murray lost to Roddick, a player he has consistently outplayed in the past, the 22-year-old Scot will not dwell on it. "I'll move on very, very quickly and go and work on my game and improve and come back stronger," he said. "If you lose one match and let it ruin your year that's a pathetic attitude. I've had a very good year so far. I'm very close to the top of the game. I've always said the US Open is my best surface, my best chance to win a Slam, and I'll give it my best shot there."

He added: "I'm disappointed just now, but while tennis is very important to me and I work really hard to play my best and be in the best shape possible, it's a tennis match and it's not the end of the world. I'll use this defeat as motivation to improve my tennis, but I enjoy my family and that stuff is more important to me than tennis. I'm disappointed that I've lost, but there are other things I can do with my time.

"One thing I've always been quite good at is being patient. If it doesn't happen I don't get down. Hopefully I'm going to play seven or eight more Wimbledons. I had a good chance of making the final here and I didn't do it, but I have a lot more Slams and Wimbledons to play and hopefully I'll have a better chance next year."

Although Murray may one day look back on this Wimbledon as a lost opportunity, both his semi-final defeat and his achievements over the last month need to be put into perspective.

While the world No 3 did not quite raise his game in the way that Roddick did, the match was ultimately decided by just a few points. In particular, if Roddick's badly mis-hit volley on set point to Murray in the third set tie-break had not landed in an unplayable position – rather than in the net – the match could have taken a completely different course. Outside of the two tie-breaks, Murray won 129 points and Roddick 127.

Murray can also reflect on a grass-court campaign in which he won his first title on the surface and won more matches at his home Grand Slam tournament than ever, maintaining his record of going one round further with each of his appearances here.

What Murray might assess is the nature of his defeats in the last three Grand Slam tournaments. Since last year's US Open, when he beat Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals with the best performance of his career before losing to Roger Federer, the Scot has gone deep into each subsequent major before coming unstuck against opponents who raised their game: Fernando Verdasco in the fourth round in Melbourne, Fernando Gonzalez in the quarter-finals in Paris and Roddick in the semi-finals here.

Were those one-off performances by his opponents or were they evidence of a failure by Murray to raise his own level, in the way that he did against Nadal in New York? For the moment the first explanation appears the more likely. Verdasco, who gave Nadal his biggest test in Melbourne, Gonzalez, a former Grand Slam finalist, and Roddick, one of the best on grass, are all players with big games who have proved that they can take on the best. That is how Murray sees it. "I haven't felt I've played poorly in any of the Slams this year," he said. "I've played well but I've just come up against three guys who played great, great tennis.

"Sometimes you have to learn to lose in sport and I have had to do that the hard way this year because a lot of my losses have come in the big tournaments against guys who have played great. I would have been really, really disappointed if I felt I hadn't done myself justice on the court, but I thought I gave it a good shot."

Many Grand Slam champions have won their first major title by the time they reach Murray's age, but there are others who have been comparatively slow to make their mark. Federer was a month away from his 22nd birthday when he won his first Grand Slam title, at the 17th attempt. Murray turned 22 two months ago and played in his 15th Grand Slam tournament here.

Crucially, Murray continues to improve. In five of his last six Grand Slam tournaments he has bettered his previous performance – in the sixth, at this year's Australian Open, he matched his best run by reaching the fourth round – and since returning from his wrist injury two summers ago he has climbed steadily up the world rankings. When the updated list is published tomorrow he will be closer to Nadal and Federer, the two men above him, than to Novak Djokovic, the world No 4.

The next few months may tell us much about Murray, who made his big breakthrough last summer during the American hard-court season, winning his first Masters Series title and then reaching his first Grand Slam final in New York. He has a big reputation and big ranking points to defend this summer. To maintain his improvement at the US Open Murray would have to win it. He admitted that it would be "a huge weight off my shoulders" to win his first Grand Slam title, though he insisted that he had not been adversely affected by the burden of expectation at Wimbledon.

"When I go into each Grand Slam, regardless of whether it's here or the US Open, I put the same pressure on myself to play well," he said. "If I win one it would probably make a difference how I perform in the next one, whether that be Wimbledon or wherever. Wimbledon isn't the only tournament in the world."

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