It was not how he had wanted to finish the greatest season of his career, but there were plenty of consolations for Andy Murray as he looked to the past and the future following his defeat at the O2 by Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Not the least of them is that he can finally put his rackets away after 11 months of toil and take his first holiday for two years. Such is Murray's dedication, nevertheless, that he is already thinking ahead to his preparations for next year.
While many leading sportsmen and women will be living it up during next month's awards season, Murray will be in Miami, subjecting himself to the hardships of his annual "boot camp", where he puts in all the work that will help him deal with the physical rigours of the year ahead. If that means missing jollies like the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year awards – where he will be one of the favourites to be honoured – then so be it.
"That period of the year for me is so, so important," Murray said. "For all of the players it's the same because we don't have breaks in the year like other sports do for two or three months at a time. Now I will have a week off to rest and go on holiday and then we need to start training again.
"The first tournaments of the year are in one of the hottest places you can play in the middle of the Australian summer. If I were to get tired in the fifth set of the final of the Australian Open and struggle physically for the last 10 or 15 minutes, missing those three days of training [to attend the awards] could make that little bit of difference. That's the reason why I probably won't be going."
Although Murray has not won a tournament since the US Open and was particularly disappointed to fall at the penultimate hurdle of the season-ending championships, which had been his main goal in the last two months, his autumn campaign has been similar to those of all the recent New York champions.
The last five US Open winners – Federer, Juan Martin del Potro, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Murray – have won just two comparatively minor tournaments between them (Federer won Basle in 2008 and Nadal won Tokyo in 2010) in the remaining weeks of the season after their Flushing Meadows triumphs. Murray, indeed, came as close as any to lifting one of the bigger trophies but failed to convert any of his five match points against Djokovic in last month's Shanghai Masters final.
Murray knows where he needs to improve next year. "I think consistency – the first tournament of the year through until the last – is the next thing," he said. "My clay-court game needs to get better. I need to make some changes to the way I prepare for that part of the season.
"When I've played good tennis this season, I've had very good results. There have just been a few too many times, especially at the beginning of the year, where my intensity was not where it needed to be – and my focus in a couple of tournaments. I think because I had never won a Grand Slam, every time I lost in a Slam I was almost looking straight away to the next one and not focusing on everything going on in between."
That will no doubt be a subject of discussion when Murray links up again next month with his coach, Ivan Lendl, whose presence this year has been a major factor in his success. "He's obviously helped me a lot," Murray said. "I think it was a step that I needed to take. It was very important to me and helped me get over that final hurdle."
In terms of his on-court game, Murray believes his more aggressive style has been crucial this year, even if it did not come off against Federer on Sunday. "I was going for my shots," Murray said. "In the second set I didn't hit the ball great, but I was still trying to make things happen, still trying to go for my shots rather than letting him dictate every single point, which sometimes in the past I had done.
"I think that's what I have to be most pleased with because when I had opportunities in big matches this year, I did try and take them. I went for it. I still need to learn sometimes a little bit when that's off and I'm not hitting it as well, to rein it in a little bit. That's something that will come with time."
A year to remember: Andy Murray's 2012
January Wins first tournament of year in Brisbane after hiring Ivan Lendl as coach. Loses five-setter to eventual winner Novak Djokovic in Australian Open semi-finals.
February First player in 2012 to beat Djokovic before losing in Dubai final to Roger Federer.
March Loses to Djokovic in Miami Masters final.
June Loses in last eight of French Open to David Ferrer.
July First British man for 74 years to reach Wimbledon singles final but loses in four sets to Federer.
August Beats Djokovic and Federer to claim Britain's first Olympic gold medal in tennis for 104 years. Also claims mixed doubles silver with Laura Robson.
September Ends Britain's 76-year wait for a male Grand Slam singles champion at US Open against Djokovic. Climbs to No 3 in world rankings.
October Loses to Djokovic in Shanghai Masters.
November Loses to Federer in semi-finals at ATP World Tour Finals.Reuse content