ANDY MURRAY'S last semi-competitive outing before the French Open may have ended in defeat yesterday, but the good news for the Scot is that the back injury that he says has dogged him at times this year is easing by the day.
On a picture-perfect day at the Paris Country Club, an exclusive venue with the stunning Saint-Cloud racecourse as its backdrop, Murray found Ernests Gulbis too hot to handle, losing 7-6, 7-6 to the enigmatic Latvian at the Masters Guinot Mary Cohr exhibition event.
The talented Gulbis, who beat Roger Federer in Rome this time last year, said he had not played as well in two years, but Murray let him into the match, having led 4-1 in the first set.
In front of a half-filled stadium, there was not much on show by way of rallies as Gulbis either hit a winner or a loser but they were pleased enough with two tie breaks.
With coach Ivan Lendl watching on from the stands, Murray was not breaking his neck to get to some shots, but he declared himself satisfied with his work.
"It's always a tough one against him," said the Scot. "But it was good to get a match. I don't know how long we were out there for, but we obviously played a lot of games, so I hit a lot of serves and returns.
"I'll go and practise again later, just try and get a bit more into a rhythm, but I've practised well the last few days, so it's been good."
He added: "I feel better than I did a few weeks ago."
Meanwhile, Serb Novak Djokovic is aiming to be the first man for 43 years to hold all four Grand Slams concurrently.
He said: " It's there and a possibility to win four Grand Slams in a row and I am going to prepare as I prepare for any other big event with more focus."