Considering the roller-coaster nature of his season it was probably inevitable that Andy Murray would end his campaign on either the highest of highs or the lowest of lows.
Until a fortnight ago Murray was enjoying the best run of his career, featuring 17 successive wins and three tournament victories in a row. Yesterday the 24-year-old Scot, suffering from a groin strain, was forced to announce his withdrawal from the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals here in London, where he had hoped to end the best season of his life with the biggest triumph of his career. "It's a decision I had to make because I was probably going to do myself more damage," he said.
Murray feared the worst on Monday, when he was hampered by the injury and lost to David Ferrer in what should have been his least problematic match in the round-robin group stage of the year-ending finale.
In his remaining two matches Murray had been due to face Tomas Berdych today and Novak Djokovic on Friday. His place will be taken by the first alternate, Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic, who could yet make the semi-finals by winning both matches.
"It was one of those things where you hope that things are going to get better, but the reality was that wasn't ever going to happen," Murray said in announcing his withdrawal late yesterday afternoon. "I was just trying to find reasons why I should try to play, but there was no real positive in coming out and playing because yesterday I was really unhappy on the court. I wasn't enjoying it at all."
He added: "It's just a really difficult decision to make because it's one of the best tournaments in the year to play and it's something that you also work all year to play here."
Murray said he had suffered the injury in practice on Monday last week and had been advised to take a week to 10 days off. He did not practise properly again until Sunday, but was unable to finish the session.
A key factor in his decision to withdraw was the fact that he did not want to risk injuring himself further with his winter training camp due to start in Miami in just over a fortnight's time. Earlier in the day it was announced that Murray will open his 2012 season in the Brisbane International, which begins on New Year's Day.
"The Australian Open is only six or seven weeks away," Murray said. "I could mess up my preparation for that, for the beginning of the year. That off-season is so important for me and has been for the last few years, for getting myself in shape. It's one of the few times when you can have an actual training block."
Murray acknowledged that he may have made a mistake attempting to play in Basle earlier this month so soon after his physically demanding run during the Asian swing. Since the US Open he has played more matches than any of the other players in the world's top four.
"Roger [Federer] and Novak [Djokovic] both took a large break after the US Open," Murray said. "Rafa took one after Asia. Maybe me trying to get ready for Basle was too soon. That's something I probably need to learn from because I had played a lot of matches."
The Scot also agreed that the defeat to Ferrer could have been a blessing in disguise because if he had won he might have been tempted to carry on playing. "There's no chance I would have been ready to win the tournament here," he admitted. "In hindsight it was maybe the wrong decision [to play], but you also want to try and give yourself an opportunity if you can."
It has been a dramatic end to what has been a remarkable year for Murray. This has undoubtedly been the best season of his professional life – he got to the semi-finals or better of each Grand Slam tournament and won five titles – though he also plumbed the depths in the first part of the campaign. Bitterly disappointed by his poor performance against Djokovic in the Australian Open final, he went into a dreadful slump in the spring before picking himself up during the clay-court season.
Murray's end-of-year disappointments may not be over in that Federer could reclaim the world No 3 ranking he lost to the Scot last month if he reaches the final here. Nevertheless, Murray should take good heart from his achievements in the latter half of the year. Since mid-August he has won more world ranking points than any other player.
The forthcoming break will also give Murray a chance to ponder the future direction of his career. He admitted last month that he would still like to bring an experienced older head into his coaching entourage. Might such a figure might have advised him to take things easy after his recent run in Asia and instead concentrate on his preparations for the year-ending finale here?