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Murray set for Davis Cup test
Andy Murray will hope the promising signs he showed at the Australian Open are not compromised by a sudden switch to clay for Davis Cup.
The Wimbledon champion was able to see the positive side after losing to Roger Federer in the quarter-finals in only his second tournament after back surgery.
Murray spent three months recovering from the operation and getting himself back in the right shape to compete at a grand slam but the tournament came a little too soon.
The Scot said: "I don't know how many players have come back from surgery and won the first grand slam back in their second tournament. It's very unlikely to happen.
"I just need to use this as a stepping stone to getting better and be happy that I've got through five matches. The last two were particularly tough.
"I'm playing at a decent level fairly quickly again. Hopefully I'll be back playing my best tennis soon."
Murray was generally happy with his back during the Australian Open, although he struggled at times with stiffness in the area.
He would have hoped to be able to rest before preparing thoroughly for the big hard-court tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami in March.
Instead, he will head to San Diego on Sunday to lead Britain's Davis Cup team in their tough World Group encounter against the United States.
To give themselves a better chance of beating the world number four, the US took the unusual step of choosing clay for a home tie, the first time they have done so in 22 years.
Although Murray is said to be looking forward to the contest, the 26-year-old sounded less than enthused by the prospect of playing on the surface that has given his back the most trouble.
The Scot, who skipped last year's French Open, said: "It's not perfect for rehabbing a back surgery. Ideally I'd stay on the same surface."
Murray's presence is crucial to Britain's hopes of a first World Group victory since 1986, with 19-year-old Kyle Edmund and James Ward the other singles players named in the team by captain Leon Smith this week.
Murray has also put his name forward to play doubles alongside Colin Fleming, meaning he could face three five-set matches in as many days.
The Scot was relatively untroubled during his first four matches in Melbourne, the only blip coming when he dropped a set to lucky loser Stephane Robert in the fourth round.
Federer was a huge step up and Murray certainly raised his game but it was not quite enough to cope with the in-form Swiss.
Former British number one Greg Rusedski thinks Murray should be more than satisfied with his performance.
"I think it's been a great Australian Open for Andy Murray," said Rusedski, now a British Eurosport pundit.
"If you look at where he was, he's been out for three months, he hasn't played since the Davis Cup in September and he played very well, especially at the end of the match.
"When Federer served in the third set, all of a sudden he (Murray) got more aggressive and he wasn't as tentative as he was in the first two sets. That's because he didn't really know what to expect against the top guys in a proper match.
"He had little twinges here and there and he's going to get better with every match. The whole team will be pleased because he showed a lot of spirit and he stayed calm throughout. He nearly found a way to turn that match around.
"By the time Wimbledon runs around this year I think he'll be back to 100 per cent. Overall, if I was to give a grade for Murray I'd say it's been nine out of 10 and an excellent week and a bit for him."
Federer moves on to play old rival Rafael Nadal for the 33rd time.
Federer was written off as a grand slam force after a poor 2013, but recovering from his own back problems and adopting a new larger-headed racquet have worked wonders.
Murray was reluctant to compare the Federer of Wednesday's match with his glory days of the mid-2000s.
"He started the match extremely well," said Murray. "But it's very hard to judge from match to match.
"Guys change and evolve, they do certain things differently to what they did a few years ago. Obviously as you get older you're going to make adjustments to your game as well.
"I thought he served especially well. But in terms of compared with six or seven years ago, it's tough because sometimes I beat him six or seven years ago and didn't play as well as I did here. Sometimes he's maybe played better than that and I could have won the match.
"It's very small margins at this level."