Brave Watson crashes out
Heather Watson's best battling efforts were neither punchy nor pinpoint enough to overcome world number seven Angelique Kerber in Wimbledon's second round.
Watson summoned all the grit that guided her recovery from glandular fever to force a third set against the German ninth seed, only to slip out 6-2 5-7 6-1.
The British no 1 surrendered the opening set in just 26 minutes, before rallying to claim the second in twice the time - but Kerber's superior class eventually told.
Both Watson and Kerber lost to Madison Keys as the American teenager stormed to the Eastbourne title last week.
For the 22-year-old British hope, this was a chance to prove she merits the company of the world's best.
If the brief first set offered brutal truths about her chances of a maiden victory over a top-10 opponent, Watson's recovery underlined the guts and guile that hint at a fruitful future.
Kerber's top-10 acumen suppressed what waves of pressure Watson could exert: the 26-year-old had enough action and reaction in the end to outwit and outgun the Guernsey native.
Watson has battled hard to overcome her glandular fever that wrecked 2013 for her, recently reaching the second round at Roland Garros and the Eastbourne semi-finals.
While she was unable to build on her first-round victory over Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic, her showing in no way disgraced her resurgence.
Watson saved one immediate break point at 0-40 as the match creaked into life - only to gift Kerber the perfect start through a double fault.
The world number 60 pulled off a fine passing shot to claim three break points of her own in the second game.
Kerber fired an ace to remove one of those break chances, only to hand Watson an immediate reprieve with a double fault.
Unable to capitalise, Watson surrendered a second break, to trail 2-1.
Kerber held serve for the set's crucial lead, then broke Watson again to move 4-1 ahead.
Kerber and Watson exchanged service holds, with Watson far more comfortable in the set's seventh game.
Kerber then served out the set without issue.
Watson fended off a deuce to hold in her first service game and open the second set in more composed fashion, before holding again.
Just as Watson was hoping to lodge a foothold in the set though, Kerber stole a break, completed via a double fault.
Watson stemmed Kerber's unfussy efficiency with a love break of her tidy opponent's serve however, to level the set at 3-3.
Kerber stole a break in a swift riposte - only for Watson to return the favour and level at four games apiece. Watson then saved five break points to hold in stubborn fashion for a 5-4 lead.
One service hold each later, Watson then finally seized the initiative, and the set.
Squeezing Kerber to deuce, Watson converted her third opportunity to force a decider.
As if to vent frustrations, Kerber raced into a double-break 3-0 lead: Watson clawed back one break, only to concede her serve once more.
Grinding to the second set had proved such a struggle that Watson's resistance eventually waned, Kerber quickly turning 3-1 into victory.
Watson saved three match points before relenting, completing a doubtless frustrating but at least promising outing.