Aljaz Bedene showed glimpses of the talent he could soon be parading as a British passport holder before bowing out of the Australian Open at the hands of four-time champion Novak Djokovic.
The 25-year-old Slovenian is a resident of Welwyn Garden City, in Hertfordshire, England and is awaiting the outcome of his application to become a British citizen.
He was eventually swatted away by world number one Djokovic, who prevailed 6-3 6-2 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena to get his 11th campaign at Melbourne Park under way.
Bedene, who two years ago reached his career-high ranking of 71st, jumped 40 places to his current position at number 116 by reaching the recent Chennai final, where he lost to reigning Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka.
And the confidence he took from that performance in India was reflected in the early proceedings as Bedene kept pace with Djokovic until the eighth game.
He even drove three successive aces beyond the Serbian, showing no sign of stage fright on the tournament’s biggest stadium court.
Eventually, though, the gulf in class told, with Bedene handing Djokovic a first break point by spearing a forehand long.
Djokovic seized the opportunity, albeit in a rather unconvincing fashion when his under-hit smash was returned into the net by Bedene, who might have had time to do better.
And in swiftly closing out the set, Djokovic imposed the tempo for the rest of the contest, his tentative start soon forgotten as he raced through the second in 27 minutes and broke decisively in the fifth game of the third to move within sight of victory. A love service game completed the task for a player who despite recent illness looked sharp enough to suggest he will again be a title contender.
This was Bedene’s seventh appearance in the first round of a grand slam, and he has yet to win a match at the level.
British tennis watchers taking a special interest in Bedene’s fortunes would not be unfamiliar with such a frustrating run of results.