Melbourne - Andy Murray has on Wednesday said he was always "very unlikely" to win the Australian Open four months after back surgery but added he was happy with his progress despite going out against Roger Federer.
The Wimbledon champion fought resiliently and forced their quarter-final into a fourth set before going down to the 17-time Grand Slam champion 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3 in three hours 20 minutes.
It was an encouraging performance from the world number four in just his seventh match this season after missing the tail-end of last season following his operation in September.
"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," Murray said.
"I just need to use this as a stepping stone to getting better and be happy that I've got through five matches here. 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."
It took Murray until near the end of the third set to get his first break on Federer's service and he showed great courage to fight off two match points in the third set tiebreaker before succumbing late in the fourth set.
"In the first two sets I thought he played great tennis," Murray said.
"When he was serving for the match I felt like I raised my level because I had to basically, and obviously prolonged the match a bit further.
"I just wasn't able to get ahead in the fourth set."
Murray said his back was not bothering him during the match, although he grimaced a couple of times in getting down low to make volleys.
He said he had come a long way since his surgery in September and was happy he was fit enough to be able to contest a Grand Slam quarter-final.
"Obviously right now I'm very disappointed. There's a few things I would have liked to have done differently," he said.
"There's maybe some things I would have done a bit differently if I was ever to have surgery again possibly. But it's the first time I ever went through something like that.
"I thought I did a good job getting myself in good shape to be competitive at this level. I wasn't too far away in the end."
Although he lost, Murray still leads Federer 11-10 in their head-to-head meetings, while it was the first time that the Scot has lost in five quarter-finals at the Australian Open.