Andy Murray threatened another miracle on Margaret Court Arena but fell to a four-set defeat against Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round of the Australian Open.
The Scot was back at the scene of his late-night heroics against Thanasi Kokkinakis, having done his best to recover from the five-hour, 45-minute epic in which he came back from two sets down to claim victory at 4.05am.
Coupled with a near five-hour first-round win against Matteo Berrettini, Murray had spent 10 hours and 34 minutes on court just making it through to the last 32.
To begin with it appeared he would offer little resistance but he willed himself into the match and improbably took the second set before Spaniard Bautista Agut claimed a 6-1 6-7 (7) 6-3 6-4 victory after three hours and 29 minutes.
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For the first time in six years, Murray arrived at Melbourne Park feeling genuinely positive about his body and his game, and the victory over Berrettini was probably his best since 2017, but the physical toll was enormous.
Metronomic, stone-faced Spaniard Bautista Agut was surely the last player Murray would have hoped to come across when free points were what he needed the most.
The 35-year-old, who has a stiff gait at the best of times, looked like he could have benefited from a walking stick as he hobbled around the court.
He won just one of the first 15 points before getting on the board in the fourth game and Bautista Agut wrapped up the opening set in only 29 minutes.
Murray was quickly down a break in the second as well but he dug in to keep it at that and, willed on by a crowd featuring plenty of Scottish saltires, began to make some headway.
Unexpectedly, Bautista Agut gave the break back to make it 4-4, and Murray battled grimly to stay on terms, saving a break point in the 11th game with a brilliant backhand pass.
Bautista Agut led 5-2 and 6-4 in the tie-break but Murray again would not let go, getting back on level terms and then forcing two set points, of which he took the second.
Murray stood statuesque soaking up the adulation of the fans who now fully believed they might be witnessing something very special indeed.
But Bautista Agut managed to shut out the noise in the third set, finally breaking through to lead 5-3, and an early break for Murray in the fourth proved a false dawn.
Elsewhere, Novak Djokovic continued to defy a hamstring injury as a straight-sets victory over Grigor Dimitrov sent him into the fourth round of the Australian Open.
The title favourite admitted after needing a medical timeout and dropping a set to French qualifier Enzo Couacaud that he was concerned, and a clash with 27th seed Dimitrov was a much better test of his physical condition.
He took another timeout after falling to the floor at the side of the court at the end of the first set but, despite continuing to limp and looking uncomfortable at times, clinched a 7-6 (7) 6-3 6-4 victory.
It was only two years ago that Djokovic tore an abdominal muscle during the tournament yet still managed to win a ninth title, and none of his rivals will be expecting him to give up the chance of a 10th without an almighty battle.
The strapping on Djokovic’s left leg was even more substantial than on previous days but he settled well into the match, breaking serve in the opening game.
Dimitrov saved three set points at 5-3 and it appeared Djokovic was in full control but he was broken serving for the set and then had to save two set points, one at 5-6 and one in the tie-break.
When he took the set with a volley, the crowd would have expected to see a celebration, but instead Djokovic collapsed to the court looking stony-faced and called for the trainer.
The pain was evident on his face as he had the muscle massaged but, although there were moments when Djokovic did not appear to be moving properly, particularly going forwards, he was able to hare around on the baseline seemingly without too much hindrance.
Having beaten Dimitrov nine times in their previous 10 meetings probably helped. The Bulgarian at times threatened to make things complicated for Djokovic but, despite going down on the court twice more, he found a way through to set up a clash with Australia’s Alex De Minaur.