Andy Murray believes he has greater clarity in how he will approach his matches next year after taking the positives from reaching the final of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
Murray was denied a third title at the exhibition event in Abu Dhabi, having won in 2009 and 2015, after being outgunned by Andrey Rublev, who prevailed 6-4 7-6 (2) on Saturday evening.
The Scot, 34, has defeated British compatriot Dan Evans and 20-time grand slam winner Rafael Nadal in the last few days so was not too downcast at going down to a player ranked fifth in the world.
“It was a good week for me,” said Murray, who has had two major hip operations. “It was good to see where my body’s at playing three days in a row at that sort of intensity and I learned quite a lot across the three matches.
“Certainly some things improved as the week went on and there were a few things (against Rublev) that maybe in the other matches I maybe got away with. Certainly some things for me to work on but overall it was good.”
Murray, who is spending a trial period with German coach Jan De Witt having split from long-time advisor Jamie Delgado last week, started well against Rublev but a break in the fifth game proved decisive in the first set.
Murray dropped serve at the start of the second set but was granted an unexpected foothold back into the contest when Rublev doubled faulted three times in the eighth game and, from 4-2 ahead, the Russian fell 5-4 behind.
But Rublev quickly rediscovered his composure, twice holding serve to avoid losing the set and he ensured there would be no decider in a one-sided tiebreak as the former world number one’s challenge faltered.
But Murray said: “I feel like now I’m a lot clearer in my mind about how I want to play and the way I’m going to go about my matches in the next year. Decision-making comes from having a clear mind about the way you want to play.
“Right now, I’m quite sure on that. I believe that will help me at the important moments, something that I was very strong at was making good decisions in important moments and I played well on big points and raised my game.
“Providing I’m clear on how I want to play I’ll be able to do that again.”
Murray will now head back to the UK for a week before a scheduled departure on December 27 to Australia for the first grand slam of 2022, an event he missed this year after a positive Covid-19 test.
Case figures have been on the rise again in recent weeks, with a major incident declared in London amid concern at the spread of the Omicron variant across the capital, and Murray admitted he will have to take precautions.
“It’s a concern,” he added. “With the amount of cases there are back home just now, I want to try to stay safe.
“When I get home I’m going to do all my physical training at home in my house. I’ll do all of my treatment and training at home in the gym I’ve got there until I’m able to do my test to go to Australia on Christmas Day.
“Essentially I’ve got six or seven days to try to stay safe over the Christmas period.”