Andy Murray blew his chance to claim the second ATP Tour title of his career with a below-par straight sets defeat to Arnaud Clement in the final of the Legg Mason Classic in Washington.
Plainly struggling in sweltering 90-degree heat, Murray found no way back after dropping a first set tie-break and eventually fell 7-6 6-2 to the experienced former Australian Open runner-up.
It was a performance which served notice to Murray's new coach Brad Gilbert of the work he faces to turn the 19-year-old Scot into a consistent top-level performer.
Two error-strewn Murray service games at the start of the second set eased the Frenchman into a 4-0 lead and ultimately made the fourth title of his long career a formality.
Such has been the extent of Murray's remarkable rise over the last 12 months that he began a narrow favourite to wrap up another title to add to his triumph at San Jose in February.
And the young Scot could hardly have asked for a better start as he broke his 28-year-old opponent in the opening game of the match to immediately take the advantage.
However the inconsistency which would eventually cost him dear soon reared its ugly head as Murray twice blew a break advantage to enable Clement to take the set into a tie-break.
And the Frenchman was able to make the most of his chance to wrap up the breaker 7-3 with a fine stretching cross-court winner in response to a Murray drop shot.
Troubled by blisters on his right hand which required a medical time-out early in the second set, Murray's shoulders visibly slumped as Clement breezed into a commanding second-set lead.
And some of the erratic play produced by Murray will have been of some concern to Gilbert, who was watching his new charge's performance from the grandstand.
A hopelessly lofted forehand to gift Clement the double-break was practically an admission of impending defeat and Clement served out with the minimum of fuss for only the fourth title of his long career.
However Murray's overall performance in his first week under Gilbert will come as great consolation and certainly augurs well for a profitable partnership ahead. n Murray said yesterday that he hopes to be consulted before a new Davis Cup captain is appointed.
The British No 1 said he would like to be asked for his opinion before the imminent appointment of Jeremy Bates' successor.
"I haven't spoken to anybody about it," said Murray.
"I might get a phone call this week but so far I haven't spoken to anybody about who is going to be Davis Cup captain."
Murray believes John Lloyd, who is favourite to get the role, has the credentials for the job but again emphasised he would like to be asked for his input.
"I think John is a very good player in his own right. He knows what a lot of the players play like and I get on well with him. But I'd probably like to speak to someone first before a decision is made."