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."

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen