Andy Murray left Melbourne beaten but not bowed.
He did not add a second grand slam title to his portfolio after his triumph in New York four months ago but, after analysing his defeat by Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final, he knows what he needs to do to keep pace with the world No1, and to see off the challenge of Roger Federer, whom he beat in the semi-final, and Rafael Nadal, who returns from seven months out through injury in Chile this week.
Nevertheless Murray, still third in the world, reckons it will be harder than ever to get to No1 – a goal many good judges reckon is within his grasp in 2013, including Andre Agassi and Boris Becker.
"It's tough," Murray said. "If I had won here I would have two slams, a Wimbledon final and Olympic gold and still been well behind Novak."
"The argument a few years ago was with [Caroline] Wozniacki being No1 without a slam – but Novak [who won one slam last year, the Australian] still would have been significantly ahead of me even if I'd won. With his consistency just now, Rafa [Nadal] coming back, it's going to get tougher.
"I'll need to do well the next few months and not play badly – especially in the Masters series, I will need to do well there. My next goal is to try and play good tennis in Indian Wells and Miami.
"I've realised in the last year or so that when I set myself short-term goals I tend to play better tennis that way. Previously after every slam I would look way ahead to the next one and kind of take my eye off the ball with the other events so that's the immediate goal and also slightly think about the French Open. It's a tournament I'm capable of doing well in but for me it takes a lot of practice, a lot of hours on clay to get used to it. So that's a major goal for me but I've got to do well in the next few months.
"I obviously didn't do particularly well on the clay until the French last year. Indian Wells wasn't good so there's obviously potential to pick up points and improve my ranking. The way the rankings are, I think these should be the events that dictate the majority of the rankings but that's not always the way it works."
He has some fine-tuning to do and is slightly disappointed that he did not build on his first-set lead against Djokovic in Sunday's final.
"Maybe not so much with tactics," he said. "I will have a think about why I maybe didn't create as many chances on the return as I've done in the past, but the way I was striking the ball was fine. My tactics were right, I just didn't give myself enough opportunities on his serve. I have to try and improve my return."
As for Davis Cup commitments in 2013, Murray said, "I'm going to discuss it with [Great Britain's captain, Leon Smith] once I get back from here. I spoke to him in Miami, so we will talk about it again."
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