Andy Murray lost his fourth match of the year today, falling to Argentine qualifier Juan Monaco 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 in his opening match at the Rome Masters.
The fourth-ranked Murray easily won the first set but then began to miss more first serves and commit more unforced errors, while the 58th-ranked Monaco won several points with an effective drop shot.
Murray's other losses this year came against top-ranked Rafael Nadal — twice in Masters Series events in Indian Wells, California, and Monte Carlo — and to Fernando Verdasco at the Australian Open.
Murray got only 57 percent of his first serves in to Monaco's 81 percent, and the Briton looked weary when Monaco broke to take a 6-5 lead in the third set. Monaco then served out the match, with Murray wildly missing an easy backhand approach in the final game.
Murray made his first clay-court semifinal appearance in his last outing in Monte Carlo, but he showed he still has some work to do before the French Open, which begins May 24.
Murray is working with two-time French Open finalist Alex Corretja during the clay-court season.
Monaco will next face 15th-seeded Marin Cilic after the 1.98-meter (6-foot-6) Croatian defeated Christophe Rochus of Belgium 6-0, 5-7, 6-2.
In the first round, held over from Tuesday due to rain, Richard Gasquet beat ninth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (2), 6-4.
The 23rd-ranked Gasquet improved to 4-2 in his career against Tsonga, last year's Australian Open runner-up.
Tommy Robredo of Spain eliminated Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 6-2, 7-6 (5) and will now play defending champion Novak Djokovic.
Also, Robin Soderling of Sweden overcame a second-set lapse to beat Romanian qualifier Victor Crivoi 6-1, 7-6 (2), 6-1. Crivoi upset 14th-seeded James Blake on Monday.
Soderling will next face either Nadal or local favorite Andreas Seppi of Italy, who were playing later. Also later, No. 2 Roger Federer opened against big-serving Ivo Karlovic.
With the sun out at the Foro Italico after two days of rain, something in the air got into Monaco's eye and he had to call the trainer and receive eye drops midway through the first set.
Monaco fell to the clay trying to react to a passing shot from Murray, but he got back up, wiped the dirt off his side and proceeded to break the Brit to take a 3-2 lead in the third. It appeared Murray thought a shot from Monaco was long, and he replied with a shot of his own that sailed past the baseline — handing Monaco the break.
Monaco fell to the clay again two games later when Murray hit a ball behind the Argentine, and threw his racket at the ball to no avail.
Still, the scrappy Argentine attacked more than Murray, coming to the net 27 times to Murray's 22. Monaco improved to 13-6 on clay this year, including a runner-up result in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in February.
Murray could still move up to No. 3 in the rankings if Djokovic does not defend his title.