Andy Murray is considering dropping down a level to further his singles comeback after suffering a first-round defeat at the Winston-Salem Open.
The former world number one went down 7-6 (8) 7-5 to American Tennys Sandgren in a promising display in just his second singles match back since career-saving hip surgery in January.
Murray has already confirmed he will not play in the US Open, which starts in New York next week, and will now ponder the possibility of playing some games at the Challenger level – one below the ATP Tour – to get as many matches as he can.
Among several other tournaments it means he could play at the Murray Trophy – a new addition to the calendar, named after the Scot and his brother Jamie.
It runs in Glasgow between September 16 and 22, a week before Murray is due in Asia to resume his ATP Tour schedule.
“I’m quite aware of sort of where I’m at just now and what my level is,” he told the ATP Tour website.
“It’s competitive at this level but it needs to be better. Maybe I need play a level down to get some matches and build my game up a little bit before I start playing on the Tour again.”
Despite suffering another defeat, Murray was much improved from his comeback loss to Richard Gasquet in Cincinnati so took the positives, which included feeling no pain in his hip after a gruelling match.
“Some things were a bit better today I think,” he added. “I was hitting the ball a bit cleaner than I did maybe in Cincinnati…
“I feel like I moved fairly well to some drop shots, which maybe last week I wasn’t running to.
“So there’s some good things in there but also some stuff I would like to do better.
“Physically, (I feel) OK considering, no pain, no discomfort. Just a little bit more tired than usual.”
Hundreds turned out to see him in North Carolina, with many sticking around after play was delayed for several hours due to rain.
There were some flashes of form from the Briton, who accepted a wildcard to the ATP 250 event, but world number 73 Sandgren proved too strong.
Murray struggled after losing the first set, being broken in the opening game of the second and falling 3-0 behind.
But he broke back twice to level at 5-5, before netting a forehand and handing the American the victory.