Five-time finalist Andy Murray bowed out of the Aussie Open on Thursday after losing in straight sets by Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel.
Hopes were high that Murray could have another strong run in Melbourne when he battled to a five-set win over Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round.
But, back on John Cain Arena, the feeling was very different this time as Murray, 34, struggled for sharpness against a tenacious and mobile opponent and fell to a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 defeat.
It was a desperately disappointing end for the Briton who struggled for sharpness against the world No 120 — the lowest-ranked opponent ever to beat Murray at a major.
“Winning a big match like this is unbelievable,” said Daniel. “It was an amazing level from me. I got a bit nervous in the third set. I tried not to make too big a deal of this match, playing Andy Murray.
“Even if it was against me, I was trying to feel the energy [in the crowd]. I felt goosebumps, it was amazing.”
Daniel, 28, had won just five games over three sets in their only previous meeting in the Davis Cup in 2016 but Murray, whose heavy workload also included reaching the final of the ATP Tour event in Sydney at the weekend, began sluggishly and was unable to turn the tide in his favour.
He had never lost to a player ranked outside the top 100 at a Grand Slam, with then world No 191 Arnaud Clement the previous lowest, in the second round of the US Open back in 2005.
World No 2 Daniil Medvedev proved too strong for home favourite Nick Kyrgios as the Russian ran out an impressive 7-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 winner on Rod Laver Arena.
The US Open champion sealed his place in the next round despite capacity 50 per cent crowd relentlessly backing his opponent throughout. An inspired Kyrgios forced a break of serve in the third set to take the match into the fourth but Medvedev, who is the highest-ranked men’s player remaining following Novak Djokovic’s deportation, soon regained control.