Reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu retired in the final set of a marathon first competitive outing since bowing out at the Australian Open.
The No 1 seed was forced to quit after three hours and 36 minutes in the first round of the Guadalajara Open, with Australia’s Daria Saville progressing 5-7, 7-6 (4), 4-3 from the longest match of the WTA season.
Raducanu claimed the opening set after a tough 80 minutes by bouncing back from an early break to herself break Saville in the final game.
The Briton served for the match at 5-3 in the second but Saville broke back to force a tie-break which she played cleanly to claim the set.
Both women appeared to be playing through the pain in the decider, with Saville battling leg cramps and Raducanu taking an off-court medical timeout.
The world number 12 returned to the court with her upper left leg taped and played two more games before deciding to retire down a break.
Reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu retired in first round of the Guadalajara Open
The No 1 seed was forced to quit in the deciding set after three hours and 36 minutes
The British tennis star served for the match at 5-3 in the second but her opponent broke back
The retirement comes weeks after Raducanu was dumped out of the first Grand Slam of the year by world no 98 Danka Kovinic after her performance was hampered by a blister early on in the match.
She lost in three sets in Melbourne and admitted the blister had caused her a lot of pain after receiving treatment on her hand in between games, saying the problem was likely caused by a lack of tennis before she travelled to Australia.
Earlier this month the tennis sensation showed off the hand blister that blighted her progress at the Australian Open last month, revealing the problem was still visible two weeks after she was knocked out in the second round.
Australia’s Daria Saville progressed 5-7, 7-6 (4), 4-3 from the longest match of the WTA season
Defeat comes weeks after Raducanu showed off the nasty blister that led to her shock Australian Open defeat
The 19-year-old has been visiting Singapore to take time off from tennis as she revealed the blister is still visible two weeks after her shock exit
The 19-year-old revealed the nasty-looking blister to her followers on Instagram, which still looked sore two weeks on from her tournament exit.
Raducanu took some time off from tennis to visit Singapore and uploaded a photo of her hands after enjoying a meal at a restaurant.
She wrote: ‘Singapore!! We worked, got stuck in (literally..), enjoyed the great culture, improved and had so much fun here. Thank you to everyone’s warm welcome, you made it even more special. I’ll be back!!’
Raducanu’s defeat at the Australian Open continued her difficult spell since her fairytale triumph at the US Open last year.
She went out in the first round of the Indian Wells tournament in October to world No 100 Aliaksandra Sasnovich – her first competition since the remarkable achievement – and lost to Marta Kostyuk in the quarter-finals of the Transylvanian Open the same month.
The US Open champion suffered with the problem early on in her second round defeat to Danka Kovinic at last month’s Grand Slam
And she also suffered defeat in the the Linz Open round of 16 in November before a first round loss to Elena Rybakina in the Sydney Classic just before heading to the Australian Open.
Raducanu had brought hope of recapturing her US Open form when she won her first match at the Melbourne Grand Slam – beating Sloane Stephens in three sets, before slumping to defeat against Kovinic.
She revealed the true extent of her blister agony, admitting after the match it had affected her grip and caused the problem to worsen with every heavy hit.
‘It’s just the position of it,’ she said. ‘It’s right in the crease of the palm, it’s so deep. I just can’t grip the racket. Like every time I hit, every time I make contact with the ball, it creates an impact. If I hit one slightly off centre and the racket moves a bit in my hand, it’s even more friction and it rips again. So it’s very painful, every single shot I hit.’
Raducanu has endured a tough spell in tennis since her incredible US Open triumph last year
Raducanu said the blister could have been caused by a lack of activity after going 21 days without playing prior to her arrival in Australia – saying it was a tough pill to swallow exiting the tournament in that manner.
‘I have been struggling with blisters since I started playing in Australia because 21 days with no tennis, my hands got pretty soft,’ she added.
‘From day one, I was getting blisters. This particular one has been with me for about five days, and I have been trying to tape it for every practice. It would harden and dry out, but then once I played again, another layer would just rip off. It’s just in a very awkward position that’s difficult to tape.
‘We have tried so many different alternatives, and they all end up falling off or leaving me with no feel of my racket. I fought so hard just to come out and play here, I didn’t want to go out like that.’
MailOnline revealed last week that Raducanu has inspired thousands of youngsters to get into tennis although the ‘Emma Raducanu effect’ has left some clubs with waiting lists of a year.