Andy Murray admits that he used to feel "a bit like a loser" until he finally made his Grand Slam breakthrough at last year's US Open. Murray, who has since become Wimbledon champion, believes his experiences of the last year will help him cope with the pressures of defending his title at the US Open, which begins in 12 days' time.
"I think the last year has almost changed my perception of myself," Murray said as he prepared to make his debut at this week's Cincinnati Masters. "When you lose a lot of big matches, and even when you're being successful in other tournaments, you're still getting asked about why you aren't winning the big, big matches. It does make you feel a bit like a loser.
"That's obviously changed in the last year or so," he added. "I think when I'm in those sort of positions in the future – in the semis or finals of Grand Slams – I should have a bit more confidence in myself, and hopefully that will help me."
Murray, who today plays his first match in Cincinnati against Mikhail Youzhny after the Russian's victory last night over Ernests Gulbis, admitted that winning Wimbledon had made him feel "quite strange" about himself.
"For the first few days afterwards I just had to keep reminding myself that that actually happened, that it wasn't just all a dream," he said. "Everything that went on after was quite surreal – the amount of attention that comes with that in the UK.
"Literally every time I turned the television on I was there. It felt like a movie. It didn't feel real. Then once I got back to training it started to sink in, and I guess I started to enjoy it a little bit more and understand what had actually happened."
In his early years on the tour Murray often talked about the US Open as his favourite Grand Slam event. He won his only junior Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows in 2004, reached his first senior Grand Slam final there four years later and won his first major title there last year. However, winning the Olympic gold medal last summer and winning Wimbledon last month has coloured his views.
"When I was growing up I went to the US Open to play the juniors for the first time," Murray said. "That was when it became my favourite tournament because when you're 15 years old you don't think too much about the history or the events. You're there and you're just worrying about that one tournament.
"We got to stay in a really nice hotel there. We got to eat in the players' restaurant and I got to see some of my idols. I remember seeing Tim Henman and Roger Federer before they played in the semi-finals. I got to see Andre Agassi having his dinner and things like that. You don't get that at Wimbledon because you're in a different area. That was where my love for the US Open came from. And I really liked the atmosphere of the night matches."
However, Murray said that as he got older and played more matches, particularly at Wimbledon, his outlook had changed. "I started to understand how much Wimbledon meant, not just to myself but also to the country, and the whole history of it with no British man having won for so long," he said.
"Winning the US Open last year for me was just a massive, massive relief to have finally done that. In terms of an actual experience, I really, really enjoyed the Olympics probably the most out of the three, just in terms of pure enjoyment. I loved the whole two weeks. I got to watch loads of other sports. I'll never get the experience of an Olympic Games on home soil again. That was really cool.
"But the sweetest would be Wimbledon because of the amount of pressure I was under there and the way the final ended the year before."