British number one Emma Raducanu is out of the Australian Open after losing in straight sets to Coco Gauff in a gripping second-round match.
Raducanu, ranked 77th in the world, acquitted herself very well against the American seventh seed but a lack of matches told in a 6-3 7-6 (7-4) defeat.
The 20-year-old had battled an ankle injury before the Melbourne major.
Cameron Norrie, Britain’s leading men’s player, reached the third round after a late-night win over Constant Lestienne.
At 01:28 local time, 11th seed Norrie completed a 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 victory over the French world number 55, who was making his Grand Slam main-draw debut at the age of 30.
Andy Murray and Dan Evans could join Norrie in the third round when they play on Thursday, but Raducanu’s exit means there is no British interest left in the women’s singles.
Raducanu has not reached the third round of a Grand Slam since her stunning 2021 US Open win.
Had she been able to take one of two set points at 5-4 in the second – which would have forced a deciding set – it might have led to a different outcome.
“I think I had a lot of chances and I was creating quite a few. Losing obviously sucks a bit,” said Raducanu.
“Coco is a great mover, great athlete. She puts another ball in play, so you feel like you have to squeeze it closer to the line and then she teases errors out of you.”
Teenager Gauff, who famously reached the Wimbledon last 16 as a 15-year-old in 2019, is among the favorites to win the title at Melbourne Park.
“I told myself to hang in there, Emma played really good tennis towards the end of the match,” said 18-year-old Gauff.
“It was a good quality match for the most part. This was a long anticipated match-up so I’m glad it was a good match for the crowd.”
Raducanu can take pride and positivity from performance
Raducanu conceded it has been a “great achievement” even getting on to court at Melbourne Park this week following the ankle injury she sustained in Auckland 13 days ago.
Rolling the left ankle meant she had to retire from the match against Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova, leaving Raducanu in tears when she left the court.
Before her opening match against Germany’s Tamara Korpatsch, she said she “fully trusted” the ankle but her movement was always going to be tested more against Gauff.
The issue did not appear to be factor as Raducanu went toe-to-toe with the French Open finalist in a match packed with intense baseline rallies.
Raducanu grew in confidence as the match went on, playing on the front foot and pinning Gauff back with her aggressive and accurate groundstrokes.
However, her lack of court time also told with some loose shots letting Gauff off the hook at pivotal moments, including when the Briton missed those two set points by hitting a slightly-impatient backhand long and then a drop-shot into the net.
While any defeat hurts, Raducanu will undoubtedly look back on this performance with plenty of pride and positivity for the future.
“I knew that I’m not going to beat Coco right now by pushing the ball in and trying to outrun her. It’s just not how I want to play either,” she said.
“I have that vision of myself being an aggressive player and I think that’s also the way I want to play in the future.”