Andy Murray defeated in Italian Open first round by Fabio Fognini
Andy Murray was knocked out in the first round of the Italian Open after suffering a defeat to Fabio Fognini.
Murray, fresh from claiming success at an ATP Challenger event in Aix-en-Provence on Sunday, had hoped to extend his five-match winning streak but instead saw his time in Rome end early to the 35-year-old home favourite.
A 6-4 4-6 6-4 defeat to the world No 130 halts the momentum of the Briton, who will now turn his attention to the French Open later this month.
Three-time Grand Slam winner Murray made the worst possible start in Italy with Fognini able to break him in his opening service game.
While the Scot did force a number of opportunities to break back at 3-2, he failed to seize the moment and his frustration boiled over later in the set with a debate occurring with umpire Mohamed Lahyani over a tight line call that saw Fognini go 5 -3 up
Fognini went on to clinch a 69-minute opener but quickly found himself 4-0 down in the second with Murray hitting his straps, albeit helped by a string of double-faults from his opponent.
A second-set wobble saw the veterans exchange breaks before Murray did force a decider with the encounter by that point edging past the two-hour mark.
Despite Fognini seemingly struggling physically during the second set, he found a new lease of life and took the initiative with an early break in the third.
Murray tried to keep pace with the Italian, who was mixing an array of baseline winners with unforced errors, but a concern for the two-time Wimbledon winner occurred when he held his back during the seventh game of the third.
It was not enough to stop the new world No 42 from continuing, and yet there would be no big fightback on this occasion with Fognini earning a fifth victory in nine meetings thanks to an ace after two hours and 55 minutes.
This latest first-round exit at an ATP 1000 event on clay, after similar losses in Madrid and Monto-Carlo, will give Murray around 10 days of preparation before the French Open begins on May 22, but he is now unlikely to be seeded at Roland Garros.
Fellow Briton Kyle Edmund was also knocked out in the Italian Open first round after he suffered a 6-1 6-3 defeat to Alexander Muller.
World No 473 Edmund saw his struggles continue against a French player who broke into the top 100 last month.
Muller managed to wrap up the first set in 23 minutes in Rome and, while Edmund was able to push his opponent more in the second, the former Australian Open semi-finalist was consigned to a third consecutive loss.