But the disappointment will fade, after a quick look back and a determined look forward.
The Scot has Great Britain’s Davis Cup quarter-final against France at the Queen’s Club in London to take his mind off another tough loss against the Swiss and says: “I will have to speak to my team to see what’s the best thing to do [to recover, physically and mentally]. But, yes, by next weekend I will be motivated and pumped. It’s more the next few days. I know I need to prepare properly for that tie if I want to play well there. But, obviously and understandably, the next few days might be quite tough.”
The question that will lurk in his private thoughts will be a recurring one: can he beat the players against whom he has judged himself for most of his career? He has done so many times and twice in slam finals, each of those victories against Federer’s opponent on Sunday, Novak Djokovic.
But playing Federer has always been special to him. He likes to think – and with good reason – that they are a fine fit, the elegance and intelligence across the net blending with his quirkier but no less taxing take on the game, a marrying of Spassky and Fischer, with enough oddity in the mix to ensure every contest is fascinating. There have been very few of their 24 matches in recent years that have been dull, although the one-sided beating Murray took in the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in November might have left a few scars.
If so, they were not evident in his courageous performance here on Friday. It was as wholehearted a fight as he could have mustered. Federer would have beaten anyone on that showing. Nevertheless, in the moments after Federer had won in three tight sets over two hours and seven minutes, Murray was not even sure he could face the mixed pleasure of returning to the scene of his defeat to watch his brother, Jamie, contest the doubles title on Saturday but he did, albeit tucked away in the cool sanctuary of the All England Club, which has embraced him as their own since he won the singles championship in 2013.
There was no hiding place for Murray on Centre Court in the second semi-final, where he was exposed to the most excruciating test of his spirit and skill. But defeat did not crush him. If anything, it ennobled him. He gave of his very best and was satisfied he could not have done much more, acknowledging that breaking Federer in the first game of the match might have changed the tone and the course of the contest, but conceding also that his opponent returned to untouchable heights. The considerable consolation for Murray is that he did himself proud.
He played extremely well, while not being able to find enough magic moments to match those of the inspired genius opposite him. “I prefer to lose having played well than having played badly because then I don’t feel that I’ve let myself down,” he said.
“Sometimes when I come off the court and I haven’t played well I feel terrible afterwards. You feel you’ve let yourself down, your team down and everyone who supports you. But I tried my best and I played well. Unfortunately, Roger played unbelievably well and there wasn’t much I could do.”
Asked if playing and losing to Federer was anything like a very good football team failing against Barcelona at their best, he knitted his eyebrows. “If you want to compare Roger to Barcelona then you can, especially on this surface and with what he’s done here because I really don’t think you will see anything like him again for a very, very long time.”
Federer’s serving was epic. Murray reckoned if he could reproduce it against Djokovic in the final, he had a great chance of winning. He did not reveal who he would like to prevail but, going on the old football rule of celebrating a win by the team that beat you as sort of a half-result, it is likely Murray will reserve what cheers he brings to the occasion for the player he respects with professional detachment.
Without doubt there has been a cooling in his relationship with Djokovic after Murray wobbled in the face of the Serb’s antics in the Australian Open final and then, to a much lesser extent, in the semi-final at Roland Garros last month before coming back at him like a bus out of Mad Max in the fourth set.
Either way, it will not matter a great deal to him. He has his job to get on with and that now directs him towards the Davis Cup tie, an assignment that will bring him the comfort of spending time with good friends in a team environment that has thrived under the captain, Leon Smith.
“That’s the nicest thing about the Davis Cup,” he said. “Being in a team and around the guys. All of us get on very well – and we’ve had some unbelievable weeks together – so hopefully this will be another one.”
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