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Australian Open: And then there was none . . . British women all fall at first hurdle

Eilat is the southernmost city in Israel and best known as a resort where international tourists flock to recharge their batteries.

A fortnight tomorrow it will play host to Britain's attempts to qualify for the Fed Cup and, after events here on day one, the new captain, Judy Murray, will be earning her corn.

All four British women, led by Scotland's Elena Baltacha, made first-round exits in Melbourne, a disappointing end to a week that had opened with such promise after Laura Robson qualified to join Baltacha, Anne Keothavong and Heather Watson in the main draw.

There was an element of bad luck about three of the defeats. Both Watson and Robson had drawn top players; Watson going down 6-1, 6-0 to the No.3 seed Victoria Azarenka and Robson beaten 6-2, 6-0 by the former world No.1 Jelena Jankovic.

Keothavong was the most unlucky as she had to pull out after losing the first set 6-0 to Mona Barthel of Germany, having been struck down by food poisoning.

The biggest disappointment was reserved for Baltacha, who won a round at each of the grand slam events in 2011 and whose ranking of 54 was 53 places higher than that of her French opponent, Stephanie Foretz-Gacon.

For once, the Scot did not produce on the big occasion, going down 6-2, 6-4, despite a valiant effort in the second set in temperatures that reached 34º Celsius at one stage. The tears were just about kept at bay as she tried to explain what had gone wrong.

"All the prep went really well but for whatever reason I just could not get into the match at all," she said. "I was trying really hard – the second set was better but just for whatever reason I didn't feel comfortable. Something wasn't there. It's disappointing, it's frustrating, but it's just one of those days. I couldn't quite get into it."

For the first time in several years, Baltacha had begun the year fully fit, with no niggles of note after a trouble-free off-season. Having done well here before, the hopes were high, which simply added to the frustration.

"It was a good draw," she admitted. It could have been worse, I could have got Kim [Clijsters] first round. It's frustrating but I know I'm improving, I had a really good off-season and I'm beginning to shape my game much better so it's just about keeping going and that's it. However hard it might be, you've just got to keep looking forward."

Watson and Robson were always likely to be up against it, but both were disappointed by their efforts; Watson at a poor serving day and Robson with too many unforced errors as she tried to go for her shots too soon.

"If I want to be the best, I've got to beat everyone and I've gained experience from this," Watson said. "I'm not that upset because I did try my best even though I wasn't really there today, but there's always next time ."

Playing on Margaret Court Arena, Robson drew attention when she revealed a rainbow-coloured hairband, a gesture in support of those angered by the comments of the former Australia legend Court, who opposes single-sex marriage. "I never saw a direct quote from her [Court] so I don't want to comment when I actually haven't spoken to her. [But] I believe in equal rights for everyone; that is why I wore it," Robson said.

Had Baltacha won, she would have played Clijsters, the champion, in the second round. The Belgian had a tough first set against Portugal's Maria Joao Koehler before easing away to a 7-5, 6-1 win.

Clijsters was joined in the second round by the woman she beat in last year's final, Li Na.

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