Madrid - Andy Murray came out second best in a late-night slugfest with David Ferrer at the Madrid Open on Friday but said it had been one of his best performances on clay this year and was a positive sign for this month's French Open.
Third seed Murray, who turns 23 on Saturday, fell 7-5 6-3 to the tenacious Spaniard and missed out on a last-four clash with holder Roger Federer after an attritional two-hour match that finished just before 01h00 local time.
Ferrer, the ninth seed, warmed the home fans in chilly conditions with a typically gritty display and sealed victory on his first match point when Murray netted a backhand.
"I thought there was some very good tennis in there," Murray, who has struggled since losing to Roger Federer in January's Australian Open final, said at a news conference.
"I felt like it was a very good match and it was definitely the best standard I've played on the clay so far (this year)," he added. "It's been a positive week."
Murray continually berated himself during the match and said that was something he could work on before Roland Garros, where he reached the quarter-finals last year.
"I was very close to winning tonight but that's something I can improve, just maintaining a bit more calm in my game at important moments," he said.
"Going into the French (Open) I'll definitely feel a lot better than I did a few weeks ago.
"I've got my intensity back. My mind's where it needs to be on the court and there's no reason why I can't do well there."
Ferrer beat world number four Murray in the last 16 at last month's Rome Masters and has the best record on the red dust on the ATP Tour this year.
He lost to claycourt maestro Rafa Nadal in the final in Rome and the last four at the Monte Carlo Masters. I he beats Federer on Saturday he will play Nadal again or Nicolas Almagro in Sunday's final.
"Sometimes you lose matches when you play well and it's not a match I was necessarily expected to win tonight," Murray said.
"I don't say it very often but I felt like I was a little bit unlucky."