Heather Watson beaten by Storm Sanders in BJK Cup semi-final opening singles

Great Britain’s hopes of reaching the Billie Jean King Cup final suffered a major blow with defeat for Heather Watson against Australia’s Storm Sanders.

After the high of their unexpected and hugely impressive victory over Spain on Thursday to make the semi-finals for the first time since 1981, there were hopes Britain could maintain their momentum at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena.

But, in front of a decent if far from full crowd, Watson could not reproduce the same form in a contest where she was the favourite and fell to a 6-4 7-6 (3) defeat, leaving Britain needing to win the remaining two rubbers.

Sanders has never made the top 100 and is ranked down at 237 but at her best is clearly a much better player than that and she had claimed two confident singles wins this week.

She is also a top-10 doubles player and immediately put Watson under pressure, breaking serve in the third game.

It was nip and tuck through the rest of the first set, with neither player dominant on serve, but Watson was unable to find the free-swinging brilliance she showed in dispatching Nuria Parrizas Diaz for the loss of only two games and Sanders mixed up her her tactics well.

Australia's Storm Sanders
Storm Sanders gave Australia a 1-0 lead (Jane Barlow/PA)

The Australian served out the set strongly but then immediately sought treatment for what appeared a problem in the right hip area and headed off court for a medical time-out.

There were signs of discomfort as she dropped serve for the first time in the second game of the second set only to hit straight back.

The crowd tried to spur Watson on, and she dug deep to save four break points in a long ninth game, but Sanders raced out to an early lead in the tie-break and did not look back.