Murray in the mire
"Can you write a piece on Andy Murray?" asked the editor, putting the straightforward bit first. "Explain why he is playing so badly."
Just an easy one then.
As attractive assignments go, that is right up there with being sent to Charlton v Colchester on Tuesday night - quite possibly the most atrocious football match I've ever been to.
There, at The Valley, I peered beyond the Jimmy Seed Stand hoping to catch a glimpse of the sparkling Mediterranean, but the view was obscured by a south London tower block.
Deciding to strike Monte Carlo from my schedule this year, in favour of a first visit to the Dubai tournament and a return to Rome later this month, was heartbreaking as you can imagine.
This is an incredible job and I never tire of going to these amazing locations but, going by the way Murray played in his opening match, I'm glad I wasn't there to see it. By all accounts, including his own, Murray was "rubbish".
For the first time in almost four years, and a time when his professional career was barely 12 months old, Murray has lost three matches in a row: Robin Soderling in Indian Wells, Mardy Fish in Miami and Philipp Kohlschreiber in Monte Carlo.
Even the glamorous surroundings could not inspire Andy Murray in Monte Carlo
The Fish defeat was his first to a player ranked outside the top 100 since falling to Fabio Fognini in Canada in 2007, while the Kohlschreiber loss was his heaviest since crashing to Marcos Baghdatis, also in the summer of 2007 in Cincinnati. It should be noted that he was returning from a long-term wrist injury when he played those matches
Fast forward three years and Murray should be in his prime, in peak physical fitness, so these latest defeats must rank as two of the worst of his career.
Before we go any further, let us make sure we don't lose perspective. Three defeats, in the context of a 70-match season, is nothing too troubling. This is not a crisis.
Many players have recovered to win major titles after enduring rotten patches far more stodgy than this one and Murray will dig himself out of it, he has too much talent not to.
But the turnaround may not be immediate.
"My mind hasn't been right since Australia," he told us in Miami. "That's unacceptable".
After such self-analysis, I fully expected Murray to get things sorted in advance of the clay but the issues, whatever they may be, clearly persist.
More than a fortnight passed between the defeat in Florida and the horrors of the Principality. He didn't have a glimmer of victory in either match and the familiar fight, when faced with adversity, was not particularly evident.
His supporters don't want to be concerned, but they can't help it.
So what is up?
This is the great unknown. While we can suspect a few things, none of us really knows.
Did the defeat to Roger Federer in the final of the Australian Open hit much harder than anyone expected? Murray played well, really well, but still lost.
How is he going to win a major if Federer sticks around? It's a logical question he may have asked himself many times since that night in Melbourne.
He seems to be playing, and certainly talking, like a man with a lot on his mind.
Do recent reports of a reconcilliation with his long-term girlfriend Kim Sears, from whom he split in November last year, point towards various off-court complexities?
And then there is Davis Cup, a concern which really shouldn't alter the swing of his forehand but perhaps may be indirectly contributing to the current dip.
Even though he didn't play in the last match in Lithuania, the defeat and its consequences are thought to have consumed his thinking in recent weeks.
Stinging criticism from John Lloyd, who lost his job as captain in the wake of the Vilnius debacle, came the weekend before Miami. Murray was shocked when he read the quotes.
Consulted as part of the LTA's review into Davis Cup, Murray didn't want to be seen to be voting directly for one man as captain or categorically saying he didn't want another.
Even though new captain Leon Smith is a friend and a former coach, Murray says he is no more likely to play in future ties than under Lloyd.
Do we believe this? One suggestion I read this week, sure to infuriate, was that Murray is now less likely to play because Smith understands him better and will cover his back.
The LTA, on the other hand, must have thought a matey-matey appointment would twist his arm, making participation - they hoped - more likely. That probably didn't go down too well either.
Murray feels like he is trying to salvage British tennis single-handedly and, while he doesn't always agree with stuff that goes on behind the scenes at the LTA, he needs to choose his words carefully. There are always questions.
I'm not saying that this intrigue and speculation is to blame for his poor form, but it all seeps back to him one way or another, it always has done. It could be having an indirect effect, so now is the time to shut everything out.
Only one thing matters now and that is rediscovering the natural gift he possesses for playing tennis and the wonderful joy he normally feels when hitting those winners.
Nothing has happened in the past few weeks to change my opinion that Murray will, one day, win a major championship.