- Internazionali BNL d'Italia
Laboured Murray pulls out in Rome
Andy Murray's French Open preparations suffered a severe jolt as he pulled out of his clash with Marcel Granollers at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.
Murray looked out of sorts throughout, had the trainer on during the second set, and despite taking the stanza to level the contest, he shook hands with the match at 6-3 6-7.
With the second grand slam of the season a little over a week away, it is a huge concern for a player who relies so much on his movement around the court and is not the present he wanted on his 26th birthday.
There was no sign of the drama that followed as Murray made a bright start and a running backhand executed to perfection in the opening game earned him a break point. In Madrid last week, Murray was guilty of squandering opportunities and that was in evidence again as he sent a forehand over the baseline.
Murray's forehand coughed up errors throughout the first set and Granollers took advantage to break for a 4-2 lead. Granollers is better known as a doubles player and he produced a stunning volley that helped him close out the opening set.
With Murray still struggling with his timing there was no let up from the Spaniard at the start of the second set and, after a mammoth 12-minute opening game, Murray found himself trailing by a break.
A slice of luck came Murray's way in the next game. A backhand clipped the net cord and lobbed past Granollers at the net to hand Murray a break point and he took it when the Spaniard pulled a backhand wide.
It was a brief reprieve. An exquisite drop shot helped Granollers reach 0-40 on Murray's serve in the next game, and Murray handed him the break with another wild forehand into the net, prompting the Scot to call for the trainer.
The work did little to change Murray's fortunes as Granollers claimed the next 10 consecutive points to open up a 4-1 lead, attacking the net and keeping Murray on the run, but a blistering cross-court forehand return helped Murray claim one of the breaks back as his movement showed signs of improvement.
Granollers appeared to tighten and Murray levelled the match at 4-4 and looked more confident. But just when the momentum seemed to be swinging Murray's way, Granollers opened his shoulders and at the third time of asking he broke to lead 5-4, with Murray disappointingly throwing a makeable forehand volley into the net.
But just as when leading 4-1, Granollers went into his shell and he was made to pay the price as some precision returns from Murray earned him the break back.
The set went to a tiebreak and the players were faced with extremely testing conditions with the wind blowing in Rome. Granollers was the far more tentative of the two and he never recovered from missing a routine volley.
And it looked as if Murray would go on to complete the comeback when taking the second set but, a matter of seconds after Granollers had made the error that levelled the match, Murray shook hands and pulled out of the match.
His previous withdrawal came six years to the day in Hamburg in 2007.