LONDON (AP) - When Andy Murray says he is competing against the two best players of all time, there is no hint of self-pity.
The 23-year-old Briton had not long walked off court following an agonizing three-set loss to top-ranked Rafael Nadal in the semifinals of the ATP World Tour Finals.
He had hit more winners, more aces, and even won more points, and yet, still, his relentless opponent emerged the victor, winning the deciding third-set tiebreaker.
“Today is the reason why I play tennis,” said Murray, who lost 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (8). “It was a great match to finish the year. But I need to improve because I’m competing with the two best players of all time. So if I want to win these tournaments, I want to win the Grand Slams, I need to get better.”
Murray’s only other Grand Slam final came against Federer in the 2008 U.S. Open, and a straight-set defeat duly followed.
As his search for a first Grand Slam title continues, so does Britain’s 74-year wait for a men’s singles major winner.
“It’s not the British public, I don’t think, that puts pressure on me,” he said. “The support that I got on the court today meant a lot. I just think it makes a huge difference.”
“He can do everything,” Nadal said. “He can attack well. He can volley really well. … You have to all the time find solutions to play against him and to try to beat him, no? I think he’s a great champion.”
“I just love playing against him,” Murray said of Nadal. “As a sportsman … I don’t know if there’s been many better than him ever in terms of the way he conducts himself. I have a lot of respect for him. When I play against him, I really, really enjoy it.”