By Paul Virgo
ROME (Reuters) - Andy Murray gave an indication of how far off his best he has fallen on Thursday, when he said he could see progress in his game despite being comprehensively beaten by Spain's David Ferrer at the Rome Masters.
The Briton, who has slipped to fifth in the world rankings after reaching number two last year, struggled in several areas during the 6-3 6-4 third-round defeat, with his serve malfunctioning badly.
Nevertheless, he expressed satisfaction with his showing on the Italian capital's clay, his least favorite surface, after beating Andreas Seppi on Tuesday to snap a run of three defeats.
"In terms of the way I was striking the ball it was a different level to the last two tournaments -- way, way better," Murray told a news conference.
"I just need to serve and return better, which are two basic things you tend to do better the more matches you play.
"I didn't do the basics as well as I would have liked."
Murray, who suffered an ignominious straight sets defeat on his claycourt season debut in Monte Carlo a fortnight ago, did manage to carve out three break points, two in the first set and one in the second, but was unable to convert any.
He admitted that, on the whole though, he had found it hard to pile any pressure on 13th-seeded claycourt specialist Ferrer.
"The only disappointing thing was I wasn't able to create more break point opportunities, as normally that's one of the best points of my game," he said.
"This week I felt so much better than I did in Monte Carlo. This tournament is a step in the right direction compared with the last couple of weeks, which were going the wrong way.
"I'm disappointed to lose, but I was a lot happier with the way I hit the ball."
(Editing by Alison Wildey
To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)