Andy Murray's grass court season got off to the worst possible start as he was knocked out of the AEGON Championships at Queen's with a three-set defeat to world number 65 Nicolas Mahut.
The Scot, handed a bye into the second round, never looked at his best and Mahut simply performed out of his skin to record a 6-3 6-7 (4/7) 7-6 (7/1) win that puts him through to a last-16 tie with Grigor Dimitrov.
Murray appeared untroubled by the back injury that he suffered at the French Open and the British number one could offer no excuses for his defeat.
He was outclassed, out-manoeuvred and over-powered by his opponent from France in a defeat that will raise further doubts about his chances of winning Wimbledon this year.
There was no sign of a Murray struggle early on as he flew out of the traps, gaining two break points in the first game as a result of some powerful tennis.
Mahut showed remarkable resolve to see off the threat, however, winning both points despite the presence of a hugely partisan crowd on centre.
Murray took the fifth game to deuce after Mahut double-faulted, but the Frenchman recovered to win the game.
Murray was unhappy with the umpire after a line judge got in his way when he tried to return an overhead from his opponent, and also complained at losing his footing on a few occasions during the game.
Mahut made the breakthrough in the sixth game and Murray only had himself to blame. The Scot attempted an audacious sliced lob that went long to give Mahut a 0-30 lead and the Frenchman followed it up by hitting a classy drop shot that earned him a break point.
Murray saved by powering down a passing forehand but he gave Mahut another opportunity and he did not waste it as he smacked down a powerful forehand of his own to move 4-2 ahead.
Both players then held, leaving Mahut to serve for the set. The big Angers-born player failed to take his first set point but was far more efficient with the second, hitting a sweet ace right on the line to move ahead.
Murray was in danger of throwing away the match at the start of the second set, handing his opponent a break point in the first game, but a good first serve from the Scot forced Mahut into an error.
A brief Murray comeback then began. The 25-year-old broke Mahut after his opponent double-faulted and he held his own serve despite handing Mahut three break points to move 3-0 up in the second.
Mahut was not fazed, however, breaking back in Murray's next service game by forcing the British number one to go long from the baseline.
Mahut recorded his eighth ace and held to love to move the set to 3-3.
The next four games went with serve to leave Mahut serving to stay in the set and he held his nerve to set up a tie-break.
Both players recorded a mini-break each before Murray earned a chance to clinch the set after dropping a clever volley at the net following an entertaining rally.
The Scot won the next point with an acute slice to take the set and ease home-crowd nerves on centre.
Murray then took control of the game by breaking Mahut in the first game of the decider but the Frenchman broke back in the following game, causing Murray to slam his racquet into the turf in frustration.
Mahut saved a break point in the fifth game when Murray carelessly flashed a forehand wide and the match tensely went with serve, leaving Murray to stay in the match at 4-5.
The game went to deuce after a great backhand return from Mahut but the favourite stayed strong. Mahut then held to love, leaving Murray once again serving for survival.
The Scot's experience shone through as he held to love to bring up a deciding tie-break, but he went to pieces in the showdown, losing six straight points before he netted a backhand slice to bow out of the tournament.Reuse content