Murray dropped serve five times while losing 6-2, 6-1 to Phillip Kohlschreiber, a talented German who is currently ranked 33rd in the world. Murray had arrived here on the Cote d'Azur a week ago, giving himself plenty of time to acclimate to the red clay. He had played a good opening doubles with his friend Ross Hutchins and said he felt nervous before the match today which, for him, is a good sign.
But then he couldn't put the ball in court. A couple of days ago, he had been admitting that the problems of British tennis (Murray IS British tennis) had been bothering him. The loss to Lithuania in a tie he opted not to play; the removal of the captain John Lloyd who subsequently criticized Murray for not playing; the appointment of an old friend, Leon Smith, in Lloyd's place -- an appointment Murray insists he did not advocate -- had all played their part in distracting him from the task in hand. But he offered no excuses for this latest defeat.
"I wasn't very good today," he said. "The court felt so small. I felt fine mentally. I don't know ... I just couldn't find the court. In the States, I wasn't thinking enough on court. Today, I was thinking. My mind was clear as to what I was actually trying to do. I tried serve and volley a couple of times. I tried hitting some high balls. I was trying to do different things. But I couldn't do it. The ball wasn't going in. So I'm going to need to get a lot better if I want to do well this clay court season."
Murray's form is becoming a bit of a mystery. Until he lost to Roger Federer in the final in Melbourne, he had been playing brilliantly. And even at Indian Wells, he reached the quarterfinals without dropping a set before playing a disappointing match against the upwardly mobile Robin Soderling.
But his loss to Mardy Fish in the Sony Ericsson at Key Biscayne showed a man who didn't know what he was doing and Murray admitted as much. And now, despite some changes in his private life which have seen him re-unite with his girlfriend Kim Sears; despite the good preparation and the arrival of his clay-court coach Alex Corretja, Murray still looked lost.
Kohlschreiber, to be fair, was hitting a crisp ball and was not handicapped by the errors that were falling freely from Murray's racket. The Scot did not serve well and, as he admitted, "my ground strokes were really poor." But more than anything, this most intelligent of players, whose instinctive court craft has been his greatest asset, did not seem to know which shot to play next. His drop shots were poorly executed and when he put a simple smash long, it summed up his day. Murray most certainly will have to get better.
Not so Nadal. This will do nicely although there will be tougher opponents along the way than Holland's Thiemo de Bakker. Obviously overwhelmed by the sight of the five time Monte Carlo champion across the net, the world No 77 managed just one game as Nadal strode into the third round, 6-1, 6-0.
Nadal, admitting that he was surprised to have won so easily, was reduced to talking about his surroundings. "I like the atmosphere in general, no? Here you feel you are in a club which is different. It's nice to be in big tournaments with huge stadiums but here you are in a club which makes the tournament really special and the views are unbelievable. For me to be here is sure a pleasure."
Less so for his opponents.
Djokovic was also enjoying himself in the sunshine, beating Frenchman Florent Serra 6-2, 6-3. Meanwhile on an outside court, Indian Wells title winner Ivan Ljubicic proved that he has recovered from the back spasm which afflicted him in Miami by beating Michael Llodra of France 6-3, 7-6.
And just to remind everyone that Nadal is not the only person to have won this tournament, Juan Carlos Ferrero, the Spaniard who claimed the crown here in 2002 and 2003 (the year he also won the French Open) beat Germany's Benjamin Becker 6-3, 6-4.