Andy Murray's clay-court campaign has started in disappointed fashion after a third round exit at the hands of Stanislas Wawrinka in Monte Carlo.
The British No 1 turned in a distinctly average performance on his second clay outing of the season to bow out 6-1 6-2 - a result which sees him drop back to world No 3.
Wawrinka has now won all three clay-court meetings with the Scot and his reward is a quarter-final showdown with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Friday.
Murray came into the match with the added pressure of having his world No 2 ranking on the line and Wawrinka quickly seized the initiative by winning four of the first five games.
The Swiss continued to outpower Murray, who only mustered two winners in an opening set which Wawrinka romped through 6-1.
The second set continued in a similar vein with Murray seemingly having no answer to the power of Wawrinka, who was backing up his slick groundstrokes with a strong service game.
The decisive break came in the eighth game when Murray volleyed a routine backhand long and the 13th seed from Switzerland had no problem serving out his fifth win over the Brit.
Speaking afterwards, Murray, who made 24 unforced errors during the defeat, said: "I made a lot of mistakes - 24 unforced errors is far too many, a sets worth. He served well, won some points from there and when I started making a lot of errors I was hitting the ball shorter and he was able to dictate a lot of points from there.
"I've played some good tournaments here. But, yeah, it does take me time to feel comfortable on the surface. I need matches against top players to see what's going wrong and what's going right, things I need to work on to get better.
"Normally towards the end of the clay court season, I start to feel better with my game and I've had some good results, but at the start I have struggled a little bit.
"I need to work very hard over the next two weeks to get myself ready for Madrid."