Andy Murray found himself in the familiar position of lone British player remaining in a grand slam after James Ward followed Heather Watson and Kyle Edmund out of the Australian Open this morning.
While Watson and Edmund lost in straight sets to Tsvetana Pironkova and Steve Johnson respectively, Ward won the opening set against 31st seed Fernando Verdasco and, after losing the second 6-0, was a break up in the third on court seven.
However, the British No.2 was then broken back and was unable to convert a set point in the tie-break, eventually losing it 8-6 as Spaniard Verdasco raised his game at the crucial moment to go on and win 2-6, 6-0, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3.
That meant sixth seed Murray, who takes on Australian Marinko Matosevic – nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’ – in the second round tomorrow at 2am British time, was the last British player left in the singles just after 3:30pm local time on the second day.
Ward said: “It was a very high level from both of us and he said that to me at the end. But obviously I had chances, especially at 5-4 and serving in the tie-break. I will go away and look at it again and if I am in the same position again try to do something a little different.
“It came down to one or two points and even in the second set I did not drop off that much. I did not think it was really a 6-0 set.”
Edmund’s defeat earlier in the day was more straightforward as world No.38 Johnson showed his class.
The American served well, bombing down 17 aces and only facing one break point as he recorded a 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 success over the 20-year-old from Yorkshire.
Edmund, who will now head to Hong Kong for a Challenger event, said: “I felt I did not play too badly, but came up against a very good opponent who was serving very well and I was not quite able to get into his service games.
“There was not much rhythm in the match because it was tough to get into points. My serve has definitely improved but today it came in and out so I need to be more consistent and also work on my returns.
“It’s been a good experience to win three matches in qualifying so I just need to move forward with it and keep improving.”
For Watson, her defeat was even more disappointing considering she won her second Tour title of her career in Hobart last weekend.
However, there were mitigating circumstances for the 22-year-old from Guernsey, who called for the trainer during the 6-4, 6-0 defeat by the Bulgarian and admitted afterwards that she had woken up feeling “bloated and weak” the past two days,
“I just struggled on the court to have energy and against any player here you can’t be like that, it’s tough enough when you are fit,” Watson said. “The trainer gave me some gels and Powerade with salt in it, but there’s nothing they can really do.
“It’s really frustrating, especially at the one time I really wanted all my energy and wanted to be 100 per cent, but it happens and I should have handled it better.
“I did not celebrate (winning in Hobart) too much because I had the Australian Open on my mind, but it’s a real shame. It sucks.”