Murray finds positives in defeat as he prepares for hard courts

The semi-finals can be the hardest stage at which to lose, but for Andy Murray there was the consolation that it was Rafael Nadal who had denied him the chance to become Britain's first Wimbledon men's singles finalist for 72 years.

"I love the guy," Murray said as he reflected on his defeat by the world No 1 on Friday. "As a player I think he's the best thing that has ever happened to tennis. I play so much tennis, but he's the only guy I love to watch. I have a lot of respect for him as well.

"Obviously you're desperate to win – I hate losing – but when the match is finished I have a lot of respect for him. I've known him since we were very young."

The respect is mutual. "I felt sorry for him because he's a very nice person, a very good person," Nadal said. "I wished him best of luck for the rest of the season, and sorry for today."

Nadal has been a key figure in Murray's life. It was a conversation between the two teenagers that led to the Scot basing himself at the Sanchez-Casal academy in Barcelona when he was 15, while his victories over the Spaniard at the 2008 US Open and 2010 Australian Open were arguably the best performances of his career.

Friday's defeat, Murray's eighth in 11 meetings with Nadal, set another benchmark for the Scot. Being able to play the big points with the steely resolve that the world No 1 showed may be a quality that players are born with rather than one that can be honed, but there were other lessons Murray could take from Nadal's near-faultless display.

"Obviously I'm going to have to improve certain things," Murray said. "There are certain things I can do on the court better than Rafa, but there are obviously things that he does that no one else in the world can do.

"I've been hitting my forehand great all tournament, but it needs to get better to be on a par or similar to his. It's a very different shot. I hit the ball a lot flatter, but that's a shot that can cause him problems. If I can hit hard and flat it gives me a chance.

"I need to play better up at the net. I can serve and volley better. This is the best I've served this year, for sure. I was winning between 75 and 80 per cent of the points on my first serve."

He added: "When you're out there you're not focusing on how well he's playing. I was just trying to find ways to win. But I'm sure he did play great, because when I came off I didn't feel like I played that terribly. When you do get your chances against him, you have to play great tennis to take them. That was the main difference. When he was down break points he played great tennis and I didn't on my own serve at the end of the third set."

Murray should take heart from his Wimbledon run, which proved that his troubles of recent months were only a blip. He has played significantly fewer matches than last year so he should be comparatively fresh for the American hard-court campaign, which is usually the most productive part of his season.

What of his major rivals? Nadal has looked all but unbeatable over the past three months, but his form usually dips at this stage of the year. Roger Federer has suddenly started to look vulnerable. Novak Djokovic does not appear quite the force he was, Juan Martin del Potro's year has been wrecked by a wrist injury and Marin Cilic's post- Melbourne slump has been longer and deeper than Murray's. Tomas Berdych and Robin Soderling could be the bigger long-term threats.

Murray will now take a break, but does not expect to relax for long. "I need to take a little bit of time off," he said. "I'll try and put the rackets away, but I'm not great at staying away from the court and the gym."

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?