Andy Murray has shockingly crashed out of the Indian Wells Masters in his first match, going down 6-4 6-2 to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
The Spaniard was ranked as high as 23 in the world last year, but recent times have been leaner and Garcia-Lopez currently occupies the world number 92 spot.
The chief culprit for Murray, as it had been in his Dubai final against Roger Federer, was his usually reliable backhand. A first-serve conversion rate of 48% was never going to make Garcia-Lopez sweat too much, either.
The Spaniard and the Scot held their own until 4-4, but Garcia-Lopez stole a break when Murray dumped a forehand into the net. A routine hold followed, and the Spaniard continued the good work in the second set, plundering the Scot's serve and wayward backhand at will.
Murray will be especially concerned about the number of chances he blew. The world number four spurned opportunities to break from 0-40 twice and donated far too many points through poorly guided groundstrokes.Read more (234 words)
If there's any consolation to be drawn from this defeat by Murray fans, it is that the British number one's frame of mind at least looks better than this time 12 months ago, when he exited this event in similarly ignominious fashion to Donald Young.
In 2011, Indian Wells was part of a huge post-Australian Open blowout that lasted until the start of the clay season. "In comparison to how I felt coming in here last year, it was night and day. I was feeling way more focused and confident, so I'm not sure exactly why that happened tonight," said Murray.
"I played great in practice, was hitting the ball really well," he added. "I felt pretty fresh. I didn't move my best tonight, but it didn't feel like I was moving really badly. He hardly missed the ball the whole match. He was playing with a lot of spin. It almost felt like playing the match on a clay court. I wasn't able to hit through the court and I squandered so many chances."
This springtime offers rich pickings for the Scot. With so few ranking points to defend, he will have seen this event and the Miami Masters, where he again went down early last year to Alex Bogomolov, as opportunities to close the gap on the top three. Murray's reaction when the circuit rolls round to Crandon Park will be interesting.