Let's be optimistic yet realistic
At Roland Garros
A photographer in the media conference room, disregarding common courtesy and unwritten media protocol, stops Andy Murray on his way out.
"Picture, Andy?" he grunts, attractively.
Clearly insufficient to this sweaty irritant are the millions of available photos of the world number four. Murray must feel like kicking him in the tripod. Instead he pauses and poses.
Sometimes silly things like this help assess Murray's mood and state of mind ahead of big tournaments. He was in a grump in Rome, by all accounts, but here he is chatty, obliging and as upbeat as we can ever expect.
Murray is in a good mental state as he faces his least favourite surface. Photo: Getty
"It's about feeling comfortable on the court and mentally [being] in the right place and I feel much, much better than a few weeks ago in that respect," he tells me.
He was fresh from a fun hit on Court Philippe Chatrier with occasional advisor Darren Cahill, pounding his forehand at every opportunity and rewarding the scattering of spectators with used tennis balls. When presented with a free hit at Cahill's backside (a common forfeit seen on the practice court) he hit straight into the net and laughed in embarrassment.
Having recovered from the back problem which ruled him out of Madrid and still bugged him in Rome, Murray's preparation for this second major of the year has gone well on the paprika-red clay of Roland Garros.
Eyebrows were raised by coach Ivan Lendl's absence from the practice session - he's playing an exhibition event in Frankfurt - but Murray is unconcerned by the brief separation. Lendl has been at his side for just under a week in Paris and the prep is complete.
"Physically, and in terms of the way I'm hitting the ball? Yeah - everything's done," he says.
Murray starts against Tatsuma Ito of Japan - the world number 69 who spends most of his time playing challengers - but further down the line his draw illustrates how tough this sporting challenge can be.
If the Scot manages to negotiate the first week, he could face a sequence of matches against Richard Gasquet, who beat him in Rome, clay supremo and fifth seed David Ferrer, and six-time champion Rafa Nadal. And that's just up to the semis.
If anyone doubts how hard it is to win one of these things, just consider that second-week work for a second.
Murray remains in a group of challengers behind the big three - Novak Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer. No more does he lose sleep over the desperate quest for a first major because his job is hard enough clinging onto top spot in the second tier.
Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and the returning Juan Del Potro are all possible contenders this fortnight and if Murray stays ahead of them for the foreseeable future he's doing a great job.
For him to do that, and after a recent recurrence of a back problem, he needs his body to hold up during this most gruelling of fortnights.
"It got a little bit worse," he says of the nagging pain, "but you kind of play through it until it gets to the stage that you have to take a break."
Last year he twisted an ankle during his third round match in Paris, hobbled into the same press conference room on crutches, and was advised not to walk for a couple of days.
"That was one of the toughest tournaments I played last year mentally and emotionally. I went to hospital... came back from two sets down, bad light stopped play, whatever. I also broke a tooth in the middle and had to go to the dentist. It was a strange tournament but really good for me."
Another semi-final, a sixth in a row at the majors, would be another success for Murray, given his disjointed build-up and the form of the opposition.
He'll give it his best here on the well-to-do Westside of Paris, but expect a more realistic challenge for that debut major to be mounted in London and New York later in the year.
Up top, the Djokovic/Nadal rivalry continues to amaze and it would be a shock if they don't meet in yet another final. After losing to Novak twice in the clay spring of 2011, Nadal has now beaten his rival in Monte Carlo and Rome without dropping a set.
I'm sticking my neck out considerably, I understand that, as I predict a record seventh Roland Garros title for the man from Majorca.