ANDY MURRAY does not expect to be fit for the French Open after retiring from his second-round match in Rome today with a recurrence of a back problem.
The world number two retired midway through his second-round match against Marcel Granollers at the Internazionali d'Italia and then revealed he would be "very surprised" if he played in the French Open.
Murray took Spaniard Granollers and the crowd by surprise when he pulled out having just levelled the match at 3-6 7-6 (7/5).
It looked as if it was just precautionary ahead of the start of the year's second grand slam next Sunday but in his press conference Murray gave a downbeat assessment of his chances of playing in Paris.
He said: "I pulled out because there was a good chance I would be playing tomorrow if I got through. As it is, I'd be very surprised if I was playing in Paris."
It was certainly not the way Murray would have wished to celebrate his 26th birthday.
The US Open champion had only previously retired once mid-match during his career, which bizarrely also came on his birthday when he snapped a tendon in his wrist in Hamburg in 2007.
Murray struggled with a lower back problem during the clay-court season last year and he revealed it resurfaced in Madrid last week having been something that has dogged him on and off for 18 months.
The Scot said: "I'll make a decision on Paris after the next five days I would have thought. I obviously need to take some days off and see how it settles down, but a few days didn't really make a huge difference this time so we'll have to wait and see.
"Until Madrid it had been okay but it's not been perfect for a long period. You always go into matches with little niggles and such, but it's frustrating when for a long period you're hurting.
"It's been an issue for a while now and I want to make sure it goes away. It's not enjoyable when you're playing in pain."
Stanislas Wawrinka, beaten finalist in Madrid last week, did not even make the court today, the 15th seed pulling out with a thigh injury before his match against Alexandr Dolgopolov, who next meets world number one Novak Djokovic.
Murray and eighth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga travelled to the Italian capital together in a private jet but neither has had a good week, with the Frenchman losing 6-4 7-6 (7/5) to exuberant Pole Jerzy Janowicz, who ripped open his shirt in celebration.
Japan's Kei Nishikori was another second-round casualty, the 16th seed losing 6-4 6-1 to France's Jeremy Chardy.
In the women's tournament, two-time defending champion Maria Sharapova had no problems against rising Spanish teenager Garbine Muguruza, posting a 6-2 6-2 victory.
The Russian next meets young American Sloane Stephens, who defeated Kiki Bertens 4-6 6-3 6-2 on a good day for the seeds.
Former French Open champion Li Na brushed aside fellow Chinese woman Zheng Jie 6-3 6-1 while Sam Stosur, Maria Kirilenko and Roberta Vinci were also straight-sets winners.
Seventh seed Sara Errani, who lost to Sharapova in the French Open final last year, had a tougher time in front of her home fans but eventually came through 7-5 5-7 6-2 against America's Christina McHale.