Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans were left flying the flag for Britain at the US Open after defeat for Andy Murray and Jack Draper’s untimely injury.
Murray fell to a 6-4 6-4 6-7 (1) 6-3 loss against 13th seed Matteo Berrettini while Draper sustained a thigh problem during the third set of his third-round contest with Karen Khachanov and pulled the plug down 6-3 4-6 6-5.
Britain had four men through to the third round for the first time at Flushing Meadows in the open era, and it is now down to Norrie and Evans to try to go further on Saturday.
Seventh seed Norrie takes on young Dane Holger Rune looking to make the fourth round in New York for the first time, while Evans can match his run from 12 months ago if he can beat former champion Marin Cilic.
Norrie and 19-year-old Rune have already met twice this season, with the British number one winning on both occasions in close contests.
“He’s just a very competitive kid,” said Norrie, who admitted he was nervous in his second-round victory over Joao Sousa.
“Just watching him practise, seeing his determination, seeing his level of focus, he really wants to be a top player. He’s out there training and putting in the hours. He’s very talented.
“Every time I’ve played him, it’s been a battle. I think he really wants to beat me. I’m going to have to improve and not going to have the chance to be a little bit nervous and a little bit tight.”
Evans goes into his contest with 2014 champion Cilic as a slight underdog but can take confidence from having won their only previous meeting, albeit five years ago at the Australian Open.
Murray had mixed feelings following his loss as he fell short of making the fourth round of a slam for the first time since his hip problems began in 2017.
The Scot said: “I’m surprised I’m still able to compete with guys that are right up at the top of the game.
“Matches like this, I’m really proud that I have worked myself into a position where I’m able to do that. I’m really disappointed that I didn’t get over the line today.
“But I get reminded, ‘this is the first time you’ve made the third round here since 2016’. It’s been a difficult six years for me. It’s been really hard. I’m hoping that in the future I can go further but, considering, I did all right.”
Draper looked well placed to follow up his brilliant win over Felix Auger-Aliassime with another notable victory but began to struggle physically after going a break up in the third set and, concerned about making the problem worse, opted to shake hands.
But he leaves New York knowing he will be a top-50 player at the end of the tournament and feeling more confident than ever about his career.
The 20-year-old said: “I know the only way to do it is to keep your head up and stay positive, with your shoulders back and just keep moving forward. There’s plenty of worse things going on in the world than getting injured in the third round of the US Open when I’m 20 years old.
“I think the exciting thing is I’ve got such a long way to go, I can improve so much. My game is probably at 60 per cent of my capacity. I honestly believe that. I think I’m ready to do it, but it’s just going to take time.”
In doubles, top seeds and defending champions Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram eased into the third round but there was disappointment for Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, the runners-up last year, who went out.