Murray finds form ahead of French
Andy Murray is sitting behind a desk fiddling with the microphone, as usual.
I have yet to discover whether this is a nervous twitch or, perhaps more likely, a more appealing pastime than talking to a room full of middle-aged hacks.
Anyhow, the British number one player is pondering the finest clay-court performance of his career so far.
A "tough question" apparently, which is taken as a compliment, and it takes him a while to seize upon a shortlist.
Of course there isn't a huge pool to choose from, having played only 44 professional matches on the surface - winning 23.
Compare that with 169 wins and 50 defeats on hard courts, or 34 wins and 9 defeats on grass, and you appreciate Murray's relative inexperience of winning on the red shale.
Murray showed signs on getting back to his best in Madrid last week
"I played a very good one against Acasuso a few years ago at the French... last year I felt I played some good matches, had a good win against Davydenko in Monte Carlo."
Then his normally encyclopaedic tennis brain lets him down momentarily. "Who did I lose to at the French last year?"
"That wasn't very good."
Unsurprisingly his tame demise 12 months ago - when a stack of short balls got fire-laden treatment from an inspired Chilean - doesn't make the cut.
The Acasuso match, the previous year, was magnificent - bruising intent from the outset, eight games dropped - and the Davydenko result, on a cooling Monaco evening, was a perfect demonstration of controlled aggression.
I'd pick out two other spells - rather than complete matches - which are locked in my Murray-watching-memory.
The first was on his 20th birthday back in 2007 when, before a wrist injury forced him to retire (subsequently ruling him out of the French and Wimbledon), he stormed into a 5-1 lead over the Italian Fillipo Volandri.
It was the tennis equivalent of Twenty20 as Murray marched down the pitch and hit sixes all over the place. There were only a couple of hundred of us in the weed-ridden Hamburg stands and it felt like a personal masterclass.
Then last year in Monte Carlo, after the Davydenko win, he was playing Nadal in the semis and getting a good beating. But with the Spaniard on the brink of victory, Murray turned the second set around by stepping closer to the baseline, hitting flatter over the net and scaring Nadal with the ferocity of his shots.
He still lost in straight sets but you had to be there to appreciate the trouble Murray gave the king of clay for a good 20 minutes.
Which leads us neatly to the reason for this burst of nostalgia.
When Andy Murray lost to David Ferrer in Madrid last week, his final serious match before his French Open campaign begins, he played really, really well.
The sort of performance to confirm his return to form, to reassure us he is back in the game mentally, to provide optimism for the Paris fortnight.
"If I hit the ball like that I'll beat a lot of guys," Murray said after the match. "I definitely feel way way better than a few weeks ago. I've got my intensity back, my mind's where I want it to be on the court.
"I'm moving good, hitting the ball well and there's no reason I can't play well at the French. I can't think of my best match [on clay] but this year that was the best one - although I still feel like I can play 20-30% better."
The fact is, even in defeat, that match last Friday was one of Murray's best displays on the surface - definitely making his top 10, top five at a stretch - and it bodes well for a decent run at Roland Garros.
His problem, as demonstrated in the Spanish capital, isn't so much his own form but the quality of the opposition.
Three Spaniards - Nadal, Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro - made the semis of Madrid and compatriots Feliciano Lopez, Fernando Verdasco and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez were also in the last 16.
Albert Montanes has been winning tournaments all of a sudden and even the likes of Juan Carlos Ferrero, Carlos Moya and Tommy Robredo are still going.
Murray hardly played any clay-court tennis as a kid, only focusing on the surface when he moved to train in Barcelona at 15, so for all his natural ability he still finds himself playing catch-up at this time of year with these seasoned practitioners.
Ernests Gulbis of Latvia has emerged as the serious outside bet after fine performances in Rome and Madrid. He's played Federer twice inside a month and already it feels like a rivalry.
If Gulbis, a wild talent, has got himself together mentally, then he could be heading for the top 10 very quickly.
It was fantastic to see them playing another decent final in Madrid at the weekend - their first for a year - and what an enticing prospect another French Open showdown would be.
Then, last year, he capitalised on Nadal's surprise defeat and completed the career Grand Slam. Will that make a difference if they meet again?
And as for Murray, if he makes it through to a match with either of the heavyweights, he will have done wondrously well. That will mean a semi-final which, realistically, is the height of his expectation this fortnight.