The early rounds of grand slams are normally expected to be calm waters for Andy Murray but at the French Open sharks seem to be everywhere.
Andrey Kuznetsov, a 26-year-old Russian ranked 85th, is a kind first-round draw on paper tomorrow, but the danger signs are there.
He beat Fabio Fognini earlier in the clay season and arrived in Paris fresh from a run to the semi-finals of the Geneva Open and a close match with Stan Wawrinka.
Murray has beaten Kuznetsov in both their previous meetings but lost a set in the third round of the US Open in 2014 and the Russian will seek to exploit his opponent’s shaky confidence tomorrow.
Murray has won only five matches since February and was well beaten by Fognini in the opening round in Rome last week.
A first-round loss for his struggling fellow world No 1 Angelique Kerber yesterday, meanwhile, will have focused minds even more.
The Scot at least has lower expectations on his shoulders this year, and said: “That can (help), but ultimately it doesn’t really matter when you get on the court what anyone says, whether it’s positive or negative. It’s how you deal with situations out there. Generally, when you’re playing well, you deal with situations better, because you have won matches and you’re confident and you’re feeling really good.
“When you’re struggling a little bit, it’s a little bit harder to find your way through tough moments in matches. But that will come.”
That has certainly been evident since Murray returned from an elbow injury last month, with the Scot’s forehand and serve letting him down at key moments.
He will no doubt have focused on those areas of his game with coach Ivan Lendl this week as well as trying to sharpen his movement. Lendl’s presence generally has a demonstrable effect on Murray’s game, with the Scot’s loss to Mischa Zverev at the Australian Open in January a rare grand slam failure together.
Murray’s former coach Brad Gilbert has no doubt other players will now feel Murray is a gettable scalp.
“Andy is definitely playing a little more defensive minded,” said Gilbert, speaking on behalf of espn.co.uk.
“Having that balance between offence and defence, that has been an issue. Obviously he hasn’t played his normal standard in the big tournaments. He hasn’t made a quarter-finals yet of any (Masters) 1000 or Australia. Murray owned a lot of guys, you start losing a little bit, guys feel like they have some belief.
“I still think at 30, he’s a young 30. He has plenty of time to turn it around. I never saw this bit of a bad patch coming.
“If you would have told me at the start of the year he would finish the year any lower than two, I would have been surprised.
“Knowing Andy as well as I do, I know one thing. He’s not a satisfied guy. He’s not materialistic. He loves the fight. He’s not about the show and the bling. He loves the guts and working hard.”