The 2013 Rome Masters is a great tune-up event for the French Open.
By the same token, however, it's also a tough challenge for anyone needing to sustain or build momentum. After all, leading into a Grand Slam with strong consistency only helps one's confidence.
On the contrary, failing to perform well then opens up concerns before such a major tournament. The following have found this out from this year's Italian Open.
Andy Murray Injured
After winning the first set against Marcel Granollers of Spain, Andy Murray dropped the second set and didn't pick up the racket for the third. According to Russell Fuller of BBC Sport, Murray had back issues:
The Briton endured a miserable 26th birthday as a lower-back problem forced him out of his second-round tie.
I'd be very surprised if I was playing in Paris, said Murray.
I need to make a plan as to what I do. I'll chat with the guys tonight and make a plan for the next few days, then make a decision on Paris after the next five days.
He had lost to Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals in Madrid, and instantly responding with a solid display before the Roland Garros would have been key.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan Martin del Potro
Two other top-10 players in the ATP also dropped early during the Italian Open.
Jo-Wilfired Tsonga was bounced in two straight sets by Jerzy Janowicz of Poland. This was quite surprising as Tsonga has proven to play well on clay before: most notably reaching the quarterfinals in the 2012 French Open where he took Djokovic to the brink before losing in five sets.
Tsonga also entered Rome after making the semifinals in Monaco and the quarterfinals in Madrid. So, flopping in Round 2 of Italy certainly is deep regression before the Grand Slam.
Juan Martin del Potro, on the other hand, fell a round later than Tsonga. Benoit Paire of France quickly slipped past del Potro in two sets to pull the upset.
Although he remains among the best around, del Potro has struggled immensely this season. He lost in Round 2 in Miami and then Round 3 in Monaco. Between these two tournaments, del Potro only won three sets in as many matches.
He then withdrew from Madrid, per Santi Retortillo of the tournament's official website, to a virus. Factor another disappointing performance in Italy and del Potro faces a steeper uphill climb for France.
Agnieszka Radwanska's Early Exit
The highest seed to fall thus far on the women's side of the Rome Masters was Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.
Ranked No. 4 in the WTA, Radwanska was still upset by Simona Halep of Romania despite winning the first set 7-6 (7-2). Halep then proceeded to smash thereafter, 6-1 and 6-2, to pull the upset.
Radwanska didn't have much momentum for Italy either, though. She fell in the second round of Madrid and was slammed by Serena Williams during Miami's semifinals.
Combine that with two early Roland Garros exits in 2011 (Round 4) and 2012 (Round 3) and Radwanska has a lot to prove.