Andy Murray turns his attentions to Davis Cup tie with United States
• British No1 could play singles and doubles in San Diego
• 'Happy with progress' of back injury in Australian Open
Andy Murray flies out of Melbourne on Sunday, beaten but not disheartened. He heads for San Diego, where he will lead Great Britain's return to the world group of the Davis Cup in a first-round tie against the United States, and there is every chance he will play both singles and doubles.
That should at least wipe some of the pain away after his loss to Roger Federer in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Wednesday night, when the Swiss bossed him for two sets and held off his weakening challenge in the fourth. Murray did not want to use his recent back surgery as an excuse but it seemed from a distance that this tournament might have come a little soon for him, despite his extensive rehab programme in Miami before Christmas.
"I don't know, to be honest," he said before leaving Australia. "I don't know if I'd had 10 more matches if I would have been tired. Playing these matches at this level, it's very hard to practise against guys as good as Roger. It's hard to train at this level and prepare for that. So maybe the first slam, regardless of when, was going to be very challenging for me physically and mentally but it's a big sign of progress and my back held up fairly well."
It was, nevertheless, surprising to see him out-run and out-hit by Federer who, at 32, is six years older than the Scot. As well as the disappointment of losing to an opponent he beat in the semi-finals here a year ago, Murray will now have to live with a drop in the world rankings. He will fall from No4 to No7 if Federer beats Rafael Nadal in the semi-final on Friday, and to No6 if Nadal wins the match. Federer moves to No3 if he wins the title, his 18th grand slam, No5 if he reaches the final and back to No8 from No6 if Nadal beats him.
There is obviously nothing Murray can do about any of that, so his thoughts are now directed across the Pacific. He had contemplated returning to London for a couple of days, as he has been away from home since he had surgery on his back in late September, but he thought better of it, given the number of time zones he would have to negotiate in different directions.
The Davis Cup will be a slight step down in intensity from his return to the environment of big-time tennis in Melbourne over the past fortnight, although John Isner and Sam Querrey, his potential opponents, will not be easy to handle on the drop-in clay court that has been specially built for the tournament at the home of the San Diego Padres. It is a surface that taxes Murray's suspect knees and ankles more than any other.
"I always enjoy playing Davis Cup," he said. "I just need to look to try and recover now as quickly as possible because matches like this would normally take a couple of days. I haven't played a match like this for a while so it'll take me a little bit longer to feel good again. I'll need to take a bit of rest, and obviously, with travel and stuff and adjusting to a new surface, that's going to be another challenge. Hopefully I can do that OK.
"I do all the same recovery stuff as I used to, I just don't have to spend as much time with the recovery stuff because it's obviously improved since the surgery. I just have to monitor it and stay on top of it because it's pretty early stages still. I played my first match only three weeks ago and I've played a lot of tennis since then, so I'm happy with the way it's held up and the rest of my body."