Within hours of his defeat by Roger Federer in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Championships, Andy Murray was flying around the world to the west coast of the United States. The Indian Wells Masters, which is followed immediately by the Miami Masters, begins in just three days' time. The treadmill barely stops between now and the end of the US Open in September.
Murray was thinking about the next month in America as soon as he came off court following his 7-5, 6-4 defeat to Federer. "I'm getting over there early to get in some good practice," he said. "It's a very important period for me, this one coming up, because I struggled there the last couple of years. It's a good chance for me to get some matches and hopefully play well, because the surface should suit me over there."
Considering the court and conditions in Dubai were considerably quicker than Murray prefers – and ideal for Federer – the 24-year-old Scot was more than satisfied with his first tournament back since the Australian Open. He beat two of the world's top 10 players in Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych and won four matches in total. Contrast that with last year, when it took Murray until May – and five tournaments – to complete his fourth victory post-Melbourne. This year, his spirits clearly lifted by the appointment of Ivan Lendl as his coach, he is playing in a much more positive way.
Even if Federer was too good for him in the final – the Swiss perhaps benefiting from the fact he is match-sharp following a busy playing schedule in February, whereas Murray did not play for four weeks – the Scot's game is in good shape.
While Murray's second serve still needs improvement, his first has become a potent weapon. He is also playing with a good balance between his natural counter-attacking style and a more aggressive approach.
"I did everything pretty well," Murray said when asked about the pluses to come out of his performances here. "I was happy I managed to adjust to the court after a couple of matches, because I was struggling at the beginning. It turned out to be a very good week."
Murray has been in daily telephone contact with Lendl, who will link up with him again in Miami, where they spent 11 days training together last month. "We worked on some things before coming here," Murray said. "I've just been trying to put them into the matches little by little. This week was a good start. I've tried to keep building on that going into the stretch over in the States."
Starting with the Cincinnati Masters last August, Murray has won five of the 10 tournaments he has played, reached the semi-finals or better of three others and made one quarter-final. He went out early only at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, where he withdrew with an injury after losing his first match.
Federer, nevertheless, has an even better recent record, having won five of his last seven tournaments. He talked last month about playing on until the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and Murray believes the 30-year-old Swiss can remain successful. "If there were more tournaments indoors and on surfaces like this one, I think he could definitely be No 1 in the world for the next few years," Murray said.