Murray can still beat the best
After playing so well at the Australian Open, only losing to one of the all-time greats Roger Federer, Andy Murray understandably granted himself a period of reflection and recuperation.
It was absolutely necessary, the body and mind wrung dry by winter workouts, meticulous preparation and a close-to-perfect tournament, but coming so early in the season, the break set him back and at tournaments in Dubai and North America, he underperformed.
Then came the clay season, with its predictable collection of OK performances but relatively early defeats, and Murray was a long way away from his peak.
Over dinner near his home, seven days before the start of Wimbledon, he maintained that his best tennis wasn't far away and he was right.
It took a brilliant performance from another all-time great, Rafael Nadal, to end an impressive run and now, after a mentally draining fortnight, we expect the Murray Corporation to shut down for a couple of weeks. It's absolutely essential.
But this is where things are different from post-Melbourne.
Then, in February, it was back into action almost immediately. Now, with six weeks until the start of the next big mandatory tournament in Toronto, it's almost like Andy Murray's off-season. Time away from the court should help him recharge for the big push for American hard-court success.
Murray has not won a title this year. Photo: Getty
Even if he takes a couple of weeks off completely - as he did after his Australian exertions - he'll still have plenty of court time to get the feel back ahead of Canada.
He goes into the US Open series without a title, the first time that's happened since his first year as a pro in 2005, yet I'd be surprised if that barren spell lasts. I'm convinced he will lift the trophy at either Toronto, Cincinatti or - dare I say it - the next major in New York.
Make no mistake, he is ready.
Against Nadal, in that brilliant match last Friday, he came so close - 98 points to Nadal against 91 for Murray means nothing in terms of the result but it illustrates how tight the contest was.
A minor swing the other way and it could have been straight sets Murray. In fact, it would have been straight sets Murray against most other players in the world.
He was marginally the better player in the first set, he had a set point in that dramatic second set tie-break and was 4-2 ahead in the third, all of which, admittedly, counts for nothing when the opponent is better on the biggest points.
Pundits on Saturday were dissecting the match and the tactics and, in some cases, criticising Murray for not being aggressive enough.
And yet here he is within one or two points of beating the world number one and making a Grand Slam final for which he would have started favourite.
The incomparable Simon Barnes, writing in The Times before the match, talked eloquently about the apparent obligation in British sport to celebrate a joyous victory or bemoan a crushing defeat. One or the other.
But this, genuinely, should be neither.
Over the course of his five-year career we have learned considerably more from his defeats than his victories about Andy Murray's promise and potential .
No, he didn't produce his very best anti-Nadal performance, but he wasn't far off. No, he didn't make the final, as we all hoped, but he wasn't far off.
And his reaction to a question after the match clinched the deal.
After losing to Federer twice in major finals and inspired performances from Nadal and Roddick in Wimbledon semis, he was asked whether he felt he deserved a bit of a break at the Grand Slams?
"I don't think like that at all," he told me. "When you go into tournaments you want to play against the best players, it's more fun playing against them and makes the achievement all the greater if you can do it."
What a great answer. This man is a born competitor and he deserves our respect unconditionally. He wants to play the best, he wants to beat the best, and he is close to doing it in the final stages of the big ones. It will happen.
The dream is not dead, the realisation has simply been delayed, briefly.