When push came to shove, Andy Murray was up against the greatest of all time when he faced Roger Federer yesterday, and his defeat was not unexpected. But let's get a few things straight from the start.
First, there's no shame in losing to Federer in a Slam final. Some of the greatest players the game has known have also done so, Rafael Nadal and Andre Agassi among them. Andy Roddick has lost four Slam finals to Federer, three at Wimbledon when he was playing out of his skin but Federer played out of this world.
Second, Murray's on the right track. In my preview in these pages on Saturday I praised him for some stunning form during a great fortnight and nothing's changed. I also said he'd need his best day to win, while hoping Federer didn't have his best day. Andy didn't have his best day, Federer was very close to his.
Third, in situations like these, you learn your lessons and you move on. Australia 2010 is gone and you'll never change it. Concentrate on what you can control: the future.
My advice to Andy Murray is simple. Keep on doing precisely what you're doing. You're in great physical shape, your game is magnificent, you've got a good team around you. All these things got you a shot at a Slam title and that alone is an achievement. Then you came up against a better player on the day. You know that. The next match, the next tournament, the next Slam – that's all that matters.
For me, the story of the final, as is typical at this exulted level, boiled down to a few important points, not a chasm in class.
Yes, we can look at Andy's first serve percentage early in the match and say that it really cannot be down in the 40s if he wants to win Slams. That's true. And even while it improved later on, he still ended up with "only" a 57 per cent first serve percentage, while Federer was at 66 per cent, and just awesome in places.
Yes, we can say that Andy was nervous. I don't mean he was in awe of the occasion or crushed by the pressure but I did sense that he was not as calm as Federer, which is understandable. And obviously when Murray dropped the first set, and then the second, and you could see him swearing at himself, he was getting agitated.
But let's not make the mistake of thinking Federer had it easy, or dismantled your young Briton. The Swiss genius was required to produce the very best of himself to win in straight sets, and there was tennis of the highest quality on both sides. The early trades of breaks in serve showed us that, not just in some wonderful shot-making but in steely mental application by both men.
The first set ultimately came down to the break that took Federer to 5-3, and the points that sealed it were earned with a ballistic backhand down the line followed by an unstoppable forehand. Some things you just cannot do anything about. That left Federer serving for the set, and that's when his cool head and his big game experience and his sheer quality kick in. It's worth reiterating that Federer had contested 21 Grand Slam singles finals before yesterday and had won 15 of them. That is off the wall, incredible, record-breaking, genius. For perspective, would-be critics should remember that.
In the second set, it was all about the early break of serve to love. That was Murray wobbling just slightly, Federer taking ruthless advantage, and the set score on course for 2-0.
So then we get to the third-set tie-break and let's be honest, Andy Murray really should have won it. He was getting a bit tight in that third set, I felt. Then when he was serving, his legs were letting him down. Murray's first serve requires him to get that lift so he can power down on the ball but he just wasn't getting the elevation.
How does a player change their game or their approach to get through a situation like this, and make sure that it doesn't happen again? I'm sure Andy and his team will do this anyway but I'd advise him to sit and watch that breaker again and again, pick it apart forensically, and then work on a mental drill that might be applied in another situation like that.
I don't think there was a physical problem, but maybe a mental misfire. Fixing it could be something as simple as a key phrase, a reminder, words that applied over time will lead to an instinctive reaction, something like: "Legs. Up. Power."
As it was, Andy had five set points in that breaker and he couldn't convert any of them. Three of those were saved by Federer brilliance, pure and simple. The other two Andy really should have put away, most obviously at 6-5 when he was serving but ended up netting with an unforced error instead of burying his chance.
These things happen, to everyone, even Federer. The guy has also lost six Slam finals, remember. He's not perfect. He's just exceptionally good, the best of all time.
Now back to work Andy. Your time will come.
Nick Bollettieri has coached champions from Agassi to Sharapova and the Williams sisters
End game: Blow by blow account of the classic tie-break which ended Scot's hopes
*Murray serving: He hits 129mph ace. Murray leads 1-0
*Federer serving: Murray attacks, forcing Federer to put forehand out. Murray leads 2-0
*Federer serving: Service winner. Murray leads 2-1
*Murray serving: Federer puts forehand out as Murray forces the pace. Murray leads 3-1
*Murray serving: Murray puts backhand out. Murray leads 3-2
*Federer serving: Service winner. 3-3
*Federer serving: Murray puts backhand long. Federer leads 4-3
*Murray serving: Murray hits big forehand cross-court winner. 4-4
*Murray serving: Murray hits 132mph ace. Murray leads 5-4
*Federer serving: Murray's superb cross-court forehand forces Federer into volley error. Murray leads 6-4
*Federer serving (set point to Murray): Federer wins point with big cross-court forehand. Murray leads 6-5
*Murray serving (set point to Murray): Hits big serve and fierce forehand, but then nets relatively easy forehand. 6-6
*Murray serving: Federer hits a forehand long. Murray leads 7-6
*Federer serving (set point to Murray): Superb rally ends with Murray stretching for backhand volley which just floats out. 7-7
*Federer serving: Ace. 8-7 Federer
*Murray serving (match point to Federer): Murray hits volley to Federer's forehand. Federer's running pass down line is just out. 8-8
*Murray serving: Federer nets backhand. Murray leads 9-8
*Federer serving (set point to Murray): Federer comes into net and is stranded as Murray hits backhand lob. Ball hits baseline – but is inches wide. 9-9
*Federer serving: Federer hits volley winner. Federer leads 10-9
*Murray serving (match point to Federer): Federer hits huge forehand return, which Murray somehow retrieves. With Murray at back of court, Federer plays drop shot. Murray hurtles into net and hits backhand down line, which Federer leaves, mistakenly thinking it was going out. 10-10
*Murray serving: Federer puts a forehand in the net. Murray leads 11-10
*Federer serving (set point to Murray): Service winner. 11-11
*Federer serving: He hits wrong-footing forehand winner. 12-11 Federer
*Murray serving (match point to Federer): Murray puts backhand in net. Federer wins tie-break 13-11Reuse content