The 36-year-old was beaten 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 by Grigor Dimitrov on Thursday and, though he was not as dejected as he was after losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas at Wimbledon in July, he admitted the next few months could determine how long he continues to strive for more big moments in the sport.
And that could start with missing the Davis Cup group stage in Manchester later this month.
“The plan was to play Davis Cup, but if I’m being honest, the other guys deserve to play ahead of me,” Murray said, a statement that must have been hard to admit for a man who has won three Grand Slam titles, two gold medals, been ranked world No1 and who led Britain to Davis Cup glory in 2015.
“I know it’s obviously probably a difficult situation, for Leon (Smith, the captain), with Jack (Draper). He’s had quite a few injuries coming in, but if he’s fit and healthy, he’s obviously playing very well.
“Cam (Norrie) and Evo (Dan Evans), Evo has had a great run in Washington, so we’ll see about Davis Cup and what happens there. I think there is probably a chance that I’m not on the team, see where I go from there.”
After a few days at home and some time to reflect, Murray may realise that he still has plenty to offer.
Speaking soon after his defeat by Dimitrov, he said his motivation is still high, but he has not been past the third round of a slam since he had a metal hip inserted in 2019. If he continues to struggle in the biggest events, that motivation could waver.
“I still enjoy everything that goes into playing at a high level,” said the world No37. “I enjoy the work, the training and trying to improve and trying to get better, I do still enjoy that. That’s what keeps me going.
“If things change and if I start to go backwards in that respect, if, in a few months’ time I was ranked 60 in the world or whatever instead of moving up, things might change.”
Murray will be ranked around world No40 when the list is updated after the US Open and is still hoping to climb further up the rankings to achieve one of his aims for the year, to be seeded for the next Grand Slam event, the Australian Open in January.
An unusually strong entry list for Beijing later this month means Murray may have to delay his planned trip to Asia, but even if he does get inside the top 32, it is no guarantee of easy draws.
“Obviously, being seeded avoids them [the big guns] early,” he said. “But for me it’s more about the level you put out there and the performance.
“Whether I was seeded or not here in the top 32, I don’t think that guarantees that I’m going to have a deep run either.
“But you can see, in the bottom half of the draw just now, there are possibilities. A lot of the top guys are not having deep runs, so it is possible that the draw has opened up a little bit, but it wouldn’t necessarily matter if you don’t play a good enough level.”