Whether or not the pain that is hindering free movement in his back will ease in time for Wimbledon in a month's time depends on how he responds to continued treatment to an injury that forced his withdrawal in Rome last week.
"It's a really tough decision," Murray said on Tuesday night. "I love playing in Paris but, after seeking medical advice, I am not fit to compete. Apologies to the organisers. Thanks to everyone for the messages of support. Now my complete focus is on getting back on the court as soon as possible."
Murray says he wants to resume playing during the grass court high-point of the summer, and will aim to be fit for the Queen's Club tournament, which starts on 10 June, then a two-day exhibition at the Hurlingham Club on the eve of Wimbledon, which starts on 24 June.
On balance, it has to be the right decision. The only reason the world No2 would have played in Paris would be to sustain his run near the top of the rankings, but that might have jeopardised his preparation for Wimbledon. He always had a better chance of winning the title there, especially after his gold and silver medal triumphs there in the singles and mixed doubles respectively in the Olympics last year, a month after losing the final to Roger Federer.
Murray revealed that the injury has been with him since late 2011. It flared most dramatically at the French Open last year when spasms struck early in his match against Jarkko Nieminen, even though he played through the pain to win.
The criticism he received then irked Murray, and he was again put out when sections of the crowd on Campo Centrale started whistling and booing him as his game disintegrated against Marcel Granollers last Wednesday, before he launched a spirited fightback to level, then quit. "You can have the injections," Murray said immediately afterwards. "They can help a bit with pain and they can take some of the inflammation away, but that also didn't make me feel 100%, and I want to feel 100%.
"Every player has a surface that he finds more natural than the others. It takes time to feel the body after playing on a hard court because the joints suffer more. Clay is not a surface I grew up on. It's natural to spend more time [getting used to it] and it takes me a few weeks.
"I was obviously in a bit of pain – and had the same sort of thing in Madrid and a few days afterwards, so I took a few days off after that. Then I had a hit here, played some points and was feeling OK, a little bit better, but it's still sore."
Murray doubted even before having a scan in London two days later that he would be fit for Paris, and had further tests on Tuesday before withdrawing after discussions with his medical team and his coach, Ivan Lendl.
"The French is incredibly physical as well," Murray said. "You need to be 100% for that. It's come at a tough time. There's not one thing that makes it feel much better. Some days are better than others. In the last couple of years it's been the biggest issue for me. The quicker courts help, the lower bounces, a bit more pace off the surface, that helps."
The injury is disc-related and specialists clearly argued it was too serious to risk on the clay of Roland Garros, which Murray has found particularly hard on his body. He has not missed a grand slam tournament since he withdrew on the eve of Wimbledon in 2007 after agonising over the decision with his then coach, Brad Gilbert. That was the result of a wrist injury he had sustained in Hamburg six weeks earlier.
Murray's withdrawal from the French Open moves Federer, the losing finalist in Rome against Rafael Nadal, up to No2 seed. Nadal, the defending champion, has improved his world ranking to No4 and will be seeded No3 at Roland Garros, ahead of David Ferrer. Novak Djokovic, who lost to Tomas Berdych in Rome, is still the leading seed, but Nadal, who has won 36 of 38 matches in his quite remarkable comeback from injury this year, collecting six titles along the way, will start a strong favourite.
For the first time in 19 years, there will be no British player in the men's draw in Paris. Brydan Klein, who has recently switched his allegiance from Australia, was the only British-registered player in the first round of the qualifying tournament, and he lost in straight sets to the Frenchman Mathias Bourgue. Klein was born in Australia but his mother is from Manchester.
Laura Robson, Heather Watson, returning after two months out with glandular fever, and Elena Baltacha, who only recently came back from a long spell out injured, represent Britain in the women's draw. Anne Keothavong, Johanna Konta and Tara Moore are in the qualifying tournament.
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