Great Britain’s hopes of reaching the Billie Jean King Cup final suffered a major blow with Heather Watson recording a straight-sets defeat to Australia’s Storm Sanders in the opening tie.
Watson lost 6-4 7-6 in Glasgow, leaving Britain needing to win the remaining two rubbers in order to play Czech Republic or Switzerland in the final.
Sanders has never made the top 100 and is currently ranked down at 237 but she immediately put Watson under pressure, breaking serve in the third game.
Watson was unable to find the free-swinging brilliance she showed in dispatching Nuria Parrizas Diaz for the loss of only two games in Britain’s 3-0 win over Spain, which took them into the semi-finals for the first time in 41 years.
Sanders served out the set strongly but then immediately sought treatment for what appeared a problem in the right hip area and headed off court for a medical time-out.
There were signs of discomfort as she dropped serve for the first time in the second game of the second set only to hit straight back.
The crowd tried to spur Watson on and she saved four break points in a long ninth game, but Sanders raced out to an early lead in the tie-break and did not look back, winning it 7-3.