Harriet Dart saved three match points in a much-improved display in the second set
2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Harriet Dart and Heather Watson both went out of the Australian Open as British interest in the singles ended in the second round on Thursday.

Dart, 23, battled hard against two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep, who needed a fourth match point to win 6-2 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena.

The Romanian fourth seed, a beaten finalist in 2018, fought off the late scare to win in 77 minutes.

Watson, 27, suffered a swift defeat by Belgium’s 16th seed Elise Mertens.

British number two Watson, ranked 75th in the world, won only eight points in the second set as she lost 6-3 6-0 in just 56 minutes.

Watson ‘not happy with my performance at all’

Watson has not reached the last 32 of a Grand Slam since Wimbledon 2017

Watson produced a gutsy display in testing blustery conditions to win her opening match against Czech Kristyna Pliskova, but was nowhere near to matching that level of performance against Mertens little over 24 hours later.

“I felt like my level wasn’t there, my movement felt like I was a millimetre or a second too slow and I was letting her dictate,” said Watson, who says she will return home to London and rest a slight abdominal injury before next month’s Fed Cup tie in Slovakia.

“It was one of those days physically, you don’t feel amazing every day and today was that day unfortunately.”

The second set was particularly exasperating for the Guernsey player, who struggled woefully on serve and hit a number of wild shots which were far from close to landing in.

After spurning two chances to break back for 2-1, Watson lost the next 12 points as the contest spiralled out of control.

Mertens took the final eight games to race through in the third quickest match so far in the women’s singles.

It was sweet revenge for Mertens after Watson beat her last week in the Hobart quarter-finals.

The 24-year-old Belgian, looking to match her 2018 run to the semi-finals, faces American youngster Catherine Bellis in the last 32.

“As the match went on I thought she played better and was more aggressive. I was not happy with my performance at all,” Watson added.

“My level was a lot lower than Hobart and her level was higher, but because my level was lower I allowed her to step up and play a lot better.

“She is ranked where she is for a reason and I had to play a lot better than I did to have a chance.”

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