Kyle Edmund and Heather Watson were both hampered by injury as the British duo threw away leads to lose in the first round of the Australian Open.
In baking hot conditions at Melbourne Park, Edmund twice led world No 81 Damir Dzumhur by a set but cramp in the Briton’s left leg helped the Bosnian fight back to win 1-6, 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Watson, meanwhile, was up a set and 5-4 and serving for the match against Hungary’s Timea Babos but an abdominal problem contributed to her failing to close out and she eventually succumbed 6-7 (4/7), 7-5, 7-5.
Edmund’s physical struggle was particularly frustrating given he suffered similar problems at the Davis Cup final in November, when he led Belgium’s David Goffin by two sets before cramp struck again.
“I’m disappointed with it because it’s not my tennis that’s let me down because my tennis is good enough to do it, it’s my body that’s let me down,” Edmund said.
“You can’t play full out because you lose confidence in your movement and, when you do move, you start to cramp up again.
“It was the same situation I felt in Davis Cup where I couldn’t do anything. To beat these guys you have to be 100 per cent. You can’t play with your body cramping. It’s frustrating.”
The talented 21-year-old from Yorkshire, ranked 88th in the world, was able to demonstrate his impressive striking ability during a glorious first set but this was only the third five-set match of his career and his body is yet to fully mature.
The British No 3 first called the trainer after the seventh game in the third set and while he managed to serve out for a 2-1 lead, it was one-way traffic thereafter.
“I probably need to play more five-set matches but you can only play them when they come round,” Edmund said.
“Hitting with Andy [Murray] for three hours, to cope you need to be in pretty decent nick and I can do that, day in day out. So it shouldn’t be a reason why I’m cramping, but I am.”
Watson has now lost three consecutive first rounds at the Australian Open but this was perhaps the most disappointing, given the strength of her position in the second set. The world No 79 paid tribute to her opponent’s courage on the big points but admitted an abdominal injury had restricted her movement when serving for the match.
“I came into the tournament with an abdominal strain but I had been getting it taped through Hobart and the Hopman Cup,” Watson said.
“As soon as it got important in that 5-4 game, I felt myself get tense and when I needed my serve today I couldn’t reach up and hit it.”
Watson has been working with Judy Murray in Australia while she looks for a permanent coach but, while there was evidence of a more attacking strategy, she struggled to dictate the contest’s most important points.
“I thought when it got important she played well,” Watson said. “She was the aggressor and I felt I took a step back and didn’t go for it. She played the important points a lot better than I did and that, at the end of the day, was what decided the match.”
The defeat leaves Britain with four players left in the main draw.
World No 2 Andy Murray began his tournament against German 18-year-old Alexander Zverev overnight, while Dan Evans, Aljaz Bedene and Johanna Konta were also in action.