James Ward could not provide a repeat of his previous Davis Cup heroics as he slipped to a straight sets defeat to Gilles Simon in the opening singles rubber of Great Britain's Davis Cup World Group quarter-final tie against France at Queen's Club.
The 28-year-old, whose thrilling five-set victory over John Isner set the hosts on their way to a 3-2 victory over the United States in March, was largely outclassed by his clever opponent and could not trouble his serve before eventually losing 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 in one hour and 48 minutes.
Always a favourite with Davis Cup crowds by virtue of his impressive past performances against higher-ranked players in Glasgow and San Diego, Ward, sporting his usual garish attire complete red polka-dotted socks, started confidently and comfortably held serve in the opening game before pushing Simon to deuce.
There was a brief worrying moment in the fourth game of the first set when Ward slipped and fell on the grass court. He was fine to continue but conceded a decisive break soon afterward as the world number 11 capitalised on consecutive unforced errors and exercised his dominance from the net.
The British number three, who broke into the world's top 100 earlier in July after being handed a ranking of 89 following his run to the third round of Wimbledon, saved a break point in the seventh game with an ace that was shortly followed by another to guarantee a successful hold.
Forced on to the backfoot, he could not muster a break opportunity of his own and Simon served out the first set with ease as Ward fired into the net.
Tricky second set
The second set was a similar story. After two easy holds of serve, Ward was broken again in the third game and that appeared to have a demoralising effect as he struggled to dictate the pace despite receiving constant support from the majority of the crowd.
Simon broke again at the first opportunity in the third set with a nice running forehand, leading to Ward striking a stray ball hard out of the arena in sheer frustration.
The Frenchman breezed to a 2-0 lead and had two more break points in the third game after an overzealous shot from the home favourite. Ward managed to save the first but could not repeat the feat as Simon cruised to a seemingly unassailable advantage.
Ward saved a little face by holding in his next service game but he could not do so again to keep himself in the match at 5-1 despite saving the first of two match points. Another unforced error secured a comfortable win for Simon.
"It was a great match for me," Simon said after his win. "I'm really happy with the match I played today. The Davis Cup is really important for us, it's one of the main goals of the season. Here we are trying to make our way to the semis. The fans were great. It helps a lot."
Ward said: "It's tough to say disappointed, because it's not that I gave the crowd much to shout about. It's also difficult to recreate the same as Glasgow – an indoor arena's always going to be different to outdoors, so maybe that's a factor."
Andy Murray faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the day's second singles rubber, with Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot scheduled to play Richard Gasquet and Nicolas Mahut in the doubles tomorrow (18 July) before the reverse singles on day three.