Andy Murray faces a drop in world rankings

Last updated 18:43 23/01/2014

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First came the pain in his back, then a stinging defeat.

Andy Murray is now bracing for what may well be the most painful blow of all.

Murray, who generally appears to be enduring one hardship or another, faces demotion from the position he's held for the past six years as one of the world's top-four tennis players.

When the latest revision of world rankings is released on Monday, Murray will fall from No.4 to sixth or seventh, depending on other results at the Australian Open.

The back surgery he had last September meant Murray came to the Open with more hope than expectation - so he'll be more disappointed than devastated by his quarter-final loss to Roger Federer.

If there is one thing he took from the four-set loss to a man who seems to be rediscovering his prime, it is that the surgery has been a success.

"I don't know how many players have come back from surgery and won the first grand slam back in their second tournament - very unlikely to happen," Murray said.

"I just need to use this as, I guess, a stepping stone to getting better and be happy that I've got through five matches.

"I'm playing at a decent level fairly quickly again."

An aspect of the loss to Federer that Murray took particularly hard was the notorious "double-bounce" incident that remained hanging in the air a day later.

When it occurred in the third set, the Scot objected strongly, and carried his grievance to after-match interviews when he cast doubt on Federer's integrity.

"I think he knew it had bounced twice," Murray said.

But it is the slide in the rankings that is likely to linger the longest for Murray as he continues a rehabilitation that seemed to be unravelling as he staggered on court on Wednesday night.

The rankings system won't allow Murray to gain much in the rankings until at least the second half of the year and, if he fails to defending his Wimbledon crown, he will again lose ground.

Murray travels to the US to prepare for a Davis Cup tie next week in which Britain will be attempting to return to the World Group.

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