Roger Federer has offered encouragement to Andy Murray as he struggles with the worst slump of his career – the Swiss reminding the Scot that he himself had to come through an extended bad patch as a young player before winning the first of his 16 grand-slam titles.
Murray crashed out at the first hurdle for a third successive tournament with defeat by Alex Bogomolov at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami on Friday.
It was the world No 5's second consecutive loss to a player ranked outside the top 100 and made it nine sets lost in a row, going back to his trouncing by Novak Djokovic in the final of the Australian Open in January.
Murray even carried his poor form into the doubles event, where he and Djokovic went out 5-7, 6-3, 10-8 to the Ukrainian-Russian pairing Sergei Stakhovsky and Mikhail Youzhny in their last-32 tie.
Murray's poor run carries echoes of his form at the same stage last season but is even more worrying given the calibre of the players he has lost to – and that he seems at a loss to explain the slump after being confident he had avoided the same pitfalls.
Perhaps he should listen to Federer. "Andy not playing well for three tournaments is not that big a surprise for me – I struggled hugely when I was between 19 and 23, so for it to happen once in a while, I don't think it's that much of a worry," said Federer, now world No 3.
"It's important he picks it up before the French [Open] and Wimbledon, but he's too good a player to continue like this, so he'll be all right."
The Miami tournament was the end of Murray's hard-court campaign, with the ATP Tour circuit now going into a two-month stretch on clay building up to the French Open.
The slow surface is the Scot's least favourite and could brutally expose his lack of confidence, and Federer admitted Murray needs to break his bad run as soon as possible. The Swiss added: "You can always lose in Rotterdam, you can always lose in Indian Wells – but it's [worrying] if it becomes a bit of a trend, and now with the clay-court season looming it's obviously not a good sign for him."
For their part Federer and Rafael Nadal breezed into the third round in Miami. While the home favourite Andy Roddick crashed out, Spain's world No 1 was not broken en route to a 6-4, 6-4 win over Japan's Kei Nishikori while Federer had a more difficult task on paper but beat the Czech Radek Stepanek 6-3, 6-3. The Swiss said: "I was able to play solid and keep him moving and serve at a high first-serve percentage. All in all, I'm really pleased."
Roddick seemed out of sorts as he fell at the first hurdle. The American lost his opening match to Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas 6-4, 7-6 but looked visibly uncomfortable as he needed the attention of his trainer three times due to breathing problems stemming from a recent chest infection.
Roddick admitted it affected him: "I have to get some stuff looked at. It is deep in the chest. I have been coughing, but it hasn't been affecting my breathing or energy levels until the last couple of days."
He was not the only seed to exit, as Jürgen Melzer, the Austrian 10th seed, lost to Germany's Philipp Petzschner 6-3, 6-4 and Albert Montanes, Juan Ignacio Chela and Ernests Gulbis also went out. Youzhny, the 13th seed, trounced Lu Yen-hsun 6-1, 6-0 but the French 15th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga struggled to beat Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 .