British number one Andy Murray has withdrawn from the French Open with the same back injury that forced him out of the Italian Open last week.
The world number two retired from his first match in Rome against Marcel Granollers, with a lower- back problem after winning a tie- break to square the match at one set all.
At which point there was a big shadow beclouding his availability for the French Open, the second Grand Slam of the year, which starts on Sunday at the Roland Garros as the Scot himself questioned his fitness level, saying: he would be “very surprised’ if he would be fit for the French Open.
Murray will now hope to be fit for the start of the grass- court season at Queen’s Club on June 10.
“It’s been a really tough decision, and I love playing in Paris, but after seeking medical advice I’m not fit to compete,” said Murray.
“Apologies to the organisers and thanks to everyone for the messages of support. Now my complete focus is getting back on the court as soon as possible.”
Murray has not missed any Grand Sam tournament since missing out of Wimbledon in 2007.
His previous mid- match retirement coincidentally came on his 20th birthday, when he snapped a tendon in his wrist at the 2007 Hamburg Masters. It led to him missing both the French Open and Wimbledon.
He was dubbed a ‘drama queen’ by former Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade, after struggling- with the same lower- back problem- to victory, in the match against Jarkko Nieminen at the Roland Garros last year.
He had injections before Wimbledon but said the problem returned in Madrid two weeks ago and did not improve with rest.
“Until Madrid, it had been OK but it’s not been perfect for a long period,” the US open champion said at the Italian Open. “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.”
Murray, who made it to the quarter- finals of the French Open last year, losing to David Ferrer, reached his first Wimbledon final same year. He won the Olympic gold back at SW19 and clinched his first Grand Slam title at the US Open.