World No. 2 Novak Djokovic is already in uncharted territory this season.
Not since 2006 has the Serb come into March without having at least made a final.
Per Josh Meiseles of ATPWorldTour, the Serb noted:
It's a different feel, definitely. I won the Australian Open title three consecutive years and that has significantly affected the confidence level in the start of the season and all the tournaments that were following up. This year it's not the case.
His 550th career victory at Indian Wells wasn't the easy passage Djokovic would've hoped for either.
The last time world No. 26 Victor Hanescu was in opposition was at Roland Garros in 2011, the Serb holding a comprehensive 6-0 record over his opponent.
Perhaps in a sign of Djokovic's fragile confidence, he allowed Hanescu to dominate and he was much more dogged, in the first set at least. Court Cover's Twitter account noted his struggles:
BNP Paribas Open: Second seed Novak Djokovic made to work hard— CourtCover (@CourtCover) March 10, 2014
Djokovic's inability to deal with his opponent's second serve to any great degree almost led to him losing that first set, which Hanescu took to tie-break.
In a sign of the mental strength Djokovic is renowned for however, he powered through the tiebreak and took that form into the second set, a 6-2 breeze by comparison.
His form in the latter stages of the match will have pleased his new coach, tennis legend Boris Becker.
However, the hire of the German may well be a major factor in why the Serb finds himself in such alien territory at this time of year.
After losing to Rafael Nadal in the U.S. Open, Djokovic went on to record successes in Beijing, Shanghai and Paris before gaining revenge over Nadal in London to win the ATP Tour Finals.
The announcement of his association with Becker followed and since then we have, alarmingly, seen Djokovic in decline.
Whilst he remains one of the favourites for the tournament, if he were to bow out earlier than expected, questions will continue to be asked. Rightly so.
Former tennis player Ion Tiriac is already looking for answers, questioning Djokovic's coaching, per Ubitennis.com.
Of course, what has always made Djokovic stand out amongst his contemporaries is the unshakable belief in his own ability.
For instance, who can forget his amazing comeback against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the French Open in 2012, per Daily Express.
Or his epic victory over Juan Martin del Potro, noted by Annabel Croft on Skysports.com, saying, "It's just incredible how he takes difficult situations on the chin and finds a way to bring back the level of concentration and focus."
Next up for the Serb is Colombian Alejandro Gonzalez. The 25-year-old is ranked No. 91 in the world and only has two tour-level wins to his name, both at this tournament.
It goes without saying, therefore, that a passage through to the next round should be something of a formality, although to coin a phrase, "complacency is the enemy of progress."
Tomas Berdych and Tsonga have already found that out to their cost.
Berdych fell by the wayside after a shocking second-round reverse to world No. 53 Roberto Bautista-Agut.
Tsonga also bowed out after being outfought 6-4, 6-4 against fellow Frenchman Julien Benneteau, the world No. 67.
Is Becker the right coach for Novak Djokovic? Ion Tiriac comments... - Ubitennis - English http://t.co/3IPin7gpL9— Simon (@simonsport123) March 10, 2014
With Tsonga in the same half of the draw as Djokovic, and now out of the equation, on paper there's not too much to worry the Serb on a march towards a final berth.
Becker's input at this point can also be worthwhile, as the two continue to foster their relationship, each getting to know the wants and needs of the other.
The determination to kick-start his season is obvious from his demeanour and that first set against Hanescu should have given Djokovic the wake-up call required to focus on the job in hand.