Heather Watson was unable to join compatriots Johanna Konta and Kyle Edmund in the second round of the Australian Open.
Victories for ninth seed Konta and particularly Edmund, who knocked out 11th seed Kevin Anderson, provided a very positive start for the small British singles contingent in Melbourne this year.
Watson did not get onto court for her clash with Yulia Putintseva until the evening and it was the Kazakh who emerged victorious, winning a very tight contest 7-5 7-6 (8/6).
Watson arrived in Melbourne full of confidence after a run to the semi-finals of the Hobart International but knew exactly what to expect from a match against Putintseva, one of the feistiest players on tour.
Putintseva, ranked 14 places higher than Watson at 54 in the world, made the better start and secured an early break but her British opponent fought back well to level at 4-4.
Watson was becoming frustrated at the number of long rallies she was being dragged into but could not find the first-strike tennis she was looking for and it was Putintseva who clinched the opening set.
Watson did up the aggression at the start of the second set and was rewarded with a 3-0 lead. This time it was Putintseva’s turn to show her annoyance at the partisan nature of the crowd, which was heavily in Watson’s favour.
But Putintseva responded well, levelling at 4-4 in a reversal of the first set and then breaking to give herself a chance to serve for the match at 6-5.
Back came Watson, digging in to break back and force a tie-break, and she held a set point to force a decider at 6-5. But she pulled a backhand wide and two more errors gave Putintseva the victory, which she celebrated exuberantly.