Andy Murray, a solid world No. 4 for the past four years, lost his first match for the second straight year in the BNP Paribas Open here and basically had no idea why.
After being outplayed by Spanish journeyman Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-4, 6-2, Murray, who defeated world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Dubai last week, admitted he got back to the locker room and asked himself, "Why did it happen?"
Much of the answer lay with his opponent. Last year, Murray, lacking confidence and hitting the ball poorly in practice, lost to American Donald Young, who had never beaten a top-10 player before. Garcia-Lopez has a completely different record.
Although suffering a ranking slump at the moment — he was 23rd a year ago and is now 93rd — the tall Spaniard has no fear of big players. This was his eighth victory against a player ranked in the top 10, including a shock defeat of Andre Agassi at Delray Beach in 2006, a stunner against Rafael Nadal in Bangkok when he went on to win his only ATP title in 2009 and, more recently, Tomas Berdych.
The way he played on a cool evening on the Stadium Court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, you could see where those victories came from. Garcia-Lopez, as Murray said, hardly missed a ball the whole match. Murray made 34 unforced errors, many of them at the end of long rallies and compounded his problems by failing to take any of his seven break points — twice failing to break from 0-40 on his opponent's serve.
Murray was still searching for answers when he spoke to the media.
"I probably didn't make him hit the sort of shots he doesn't like to play," was one somewhat convoluted explanation. More explicitly, he added, "I wasn't able to hit through the court. My return let me down and I hit my backhand poorly tonight, no question."
Murray's new coach Ivan Lendl has not been with him here in the desert, but the pair will meet up in Miami in a few days and tried to figure out what went wrong.
"In comparison to last year, I was feeling way, way better," said Murray, who was a finalist here in 2009. "But he played great tennis tonight. I'll just have to find the reason why I didn't play well and address it."
Earlier, Ryan Harrison had shown more signs of progress at this level by scoring one of his best victories in an ATP Masters 1000, as he outplayed the Serbian Davis Cup star Victor Troicki 7-6, 6-3. But the 19-year-old from Louisiana, who is a serious student of the game, refused to get carried away.
"It wasn't by any mean a lights out performance," he said. "I was able to control things on my service games and keep the pressure on him, but it wasn't one of those matches where I came off saying, 'Wow, I played unbelievable.' I'm just glad to be through."
Harrison was expecting to play Murray. Now Garcia-Lopez will be waiting for him in Round 3.