Rafael Nadal believes Andy Murray has the ability to become world number one in 2012 provided the Scot improves his mental approach on the biggest stage.
Murray lost to Novak Djokovic
in the Australian Open semi-finals, and is still seeking a first Grand Slam title.
"He can be number one at the end of the season," said second seed Nadal, who plays Djokovic in Sunday's final.
"When you are able to play five grand slams in a row playing semi-finals or finals, it's only a mental thing."
Murray fought back from losing the first set to lead Djokovic 2-1, only to drop the fourth in just 25 minutes.
Seemingly down and out after three sets, top seed Djokovic was suddenly back in the ascendancy.
“Murray should take enormous pride from the way he ran the best player in the world so close and the way he hauled himself back from tricky situations, like set points down in the third, 5-2 down in the decider. Djokovic has improved immeasurably over the last 12 months and here was evidence that Murray has the ability to do the same. Stepping up the court, hitting with depth and purpose, going for the lines on massive points. These were big positives. Shining through almost five hours of skill, pain, joy and heartache, should come a whole bundle of hope for the season ahead”
The world number one carried that into the decider and although Murray rallied late on, he went down 6-3 3-6 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 7-5.
Nadal felt it was a chance squandered for Murray, who has now reached the semi-finals or better at the last five major events.
"He lost another very good opportunity, in my opinion," stated the 10-time Grand Slam champion from Spain.
"To win a tournament like this and to play against a player like Djokovic, you cannot start the fourth set like this.
"It's the moment to play with more intensity than ever, not start with 3-0 down and two breaks in five minutes. That way you lose the match.
"You want to win the tournament. The other [player] can beat you, but you cannot lose in the beginning."
Nadal suggested fourth-ranked Murray was "never very far" from the leading trio of himself, Djokovic and Roger Federer.
The 24-year-old from Dunblane is hoping to become the first British man to win a Grand Slam singles title since Fred Perry in 1936.
"He's playing well," Nadal added. "He's playing fantastic. He deserves to win a Grand Slam.
"He was unlucky at the end, but the only negative thing for me in his match is the beginning of the fourth.
"When the other [player] has more doubts, you make it easier for the opponent than it should be, no? That's my feeling."