Andy Murray suffered his first defeat to Nick Kyrgios as Great Britain lost to the Australia Green team at the Hopman Cup in Perth.
Murray had won all four of his previous meetings against the flamboyant Australian but Kyrgios produced a largely mature performance to triumph 6-4, 7-6 (7/5).
Heather Watson kept Britain’s hopes alive with a courageous 6-7 (2/7) 6-2, 7-5 win over Daria Gavrilova, but Murray and Watson lost the deciding mixed doubles 6-2, 6-7 (0/7) 11-9. Britain’s hopes of reaching the final now depend on a big win against Germany tomorrow, coupled with Australia losing heavily to France.
Kyrgios broke serve in the third game of the match as Murray made an erratic start and that was enough for him to take the opening set.
The Australian broke again at the start of the second set, but Murray hit straight back as his opponent’s habit of going for the spectacular cost him. Murray had a set point to level proceedings in the 12th game, but Kyrgios held on and clinched victory on his second match point with a thumping forehand winner.
Murray complained of a sore hip after his first match against France’s Kenny De Schepper and did not appear to be 100 per cent again.
Kyrgios backed his friend to be on top form at the Australian Open in under a fortnight, saying on hopmancup.com: “One hundred per cent he wanted to win that.
“I thought it was a good match. He’s a true champion. He’ll come back and I’m sure he’ll be ready, and he’s a strong contender for the Australian Open.”
Gavrilova and Watson were engaged in a ding-dong battle that lasted two hours and 46 minutes.
Gavrilova saved two set points on her way to taking the opener, but Watson turned things around and looked in control at 2-0 in the decider.
Gavrilova, ranked 19 places higher than Watson at 36 in the world, fought back and served for the match at 5-3, but the British No 2 showed typical grit to come through.
The doubles had similar swings in momentum and Britain saved three match points in the deciding tie-break, but, on the fourth, Kyrgios served an ace.
Earlier, Germany won for the first time in the competition, 2-1 against France.
Caroline Garcia defeated Sabine Lisicki, but teenager Alexander Zverev pulled Germany level with victory over De Schepper and the German duo won the doubles.
Meanwhile, Serena Williams withdrew from the tournament because of a knee injury and will not play in the United States’ final match on Thursday. The world No 1 missed the first match of the round-robin tournament and then retired during the second set of her clash against Australia’s Jarmila Wolfe on Tuesday.
Williams revealed she was struggling with inflammation of her left knee and she will be replaced by Vicky Duval against the Czech Republic.
The injury must be a concern for Williams with less than two weeks to go until she begins the defence of her Australian Open title.
The 34-year-old brought an early end to her 2015 season partly because of pain in her knees after seeing her Grand Slam dreams ended by Roberta Vinci in the US Open semi-finals.