Elena Baltacha gamble backfires after Laura Robson struggles on clay

Britain's long wait to rejoin the Fed Cup's World Group will continue for another year. Judy Murray's team fell one tie short of returning to the elite competition for the second year in succession when Argentina completed a 3-1 victory in yesterday's play-off in Buenos Aires.

The loss of Heather Watson with glandular fever proved too great a handicap for Britain, who entered the final day level at 1-1. Laura Robson lost 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 to Paula Ormaechea in the first of the reverse singles before Maria Irigoyen completed a 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Elena Baltacha, who had been preferred to Johanna Konta despite having played only one match since returning after a nine-month absence through injury.

Robson, who has won only two matches in the six tournaments she has played since the Australian Open, had been an emphatic winner of her first singles rubber against Florencia Molinero on Saturday. In Ormaechea, however, the world No 38 faced a more accomplished opponent. Although 105 places behind her in the world rankings, the Argentine No 1 is an experienced Fed Cup campaigner and a good performer on clay.

While Robson had the bigger ground strokes, the slow surface, which was in Argentina's favour throughout, enabled Ormaechea to stay in many rallies. Going for her shots, Robson made 57 unforced errors and struggled with her serve, hitting nine double faults.

Ormaechea had the better of five successive breaks in the middle of the opening set and went 2-0 up in the second, but Robson recovered well and had the momentum with her when she levelled the match. From 1-1 in the decider, however, Ormaechea took command. Robson saved the first three match points but on the fourth Ormaechea hit a winning backhand pass down the line.

After Konta had lost her singles rubber on Saturday, Murray decided to gamble by replacing her with Baltacha. The former British No 1 had failed to complete her only match in Alabama last week on her return to competition after ankle surgery, but has extensive Fed Cup experience and is a gritty fighter. Argentina also made a change, replacing Florencia Molinero with Irigoyen, who has won only one of five singles rubbers for her country.

Although Baltacha had her chances, she converted only five of 14 break points. The Briton held firm until 3-3 in the first set, then dropped serve three times in a row. Baltacha broke back the first two times but after the third Irigoyen served out for the set.

Baltacha's response could not be faulted as she broke to lead 5-3 in the second set and served out to force a decider. She broke immediately, but did not win another game, her lack of action appearing to catch up with her.

It was a desperately disappointing outcome for Murray's team, who have had the misfortune to be drawn away in their play-off matches for the last two years. They will now have to renew their attempt to win promotion next year to the World Group – in which Britain last competed 20 years ago – via Europe Africa Zone Group One.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam