Britain’s Johanna Konta was knocked out of the Australian Open in a second-round match against Garbine Muguruza which finished at 03:12 local time.
Konta, 27, lost 6-4 6-7 (3-7) 7-5 in Melbourne in one of the latest finishes in the tournament’s history.
Spaniard Muguruza, 25, nicked a tight final set in front of about 250 remaining fans on Margaret Court Arena.
“I don’t agree with athletes having to physically exert themselves in the wee hours of the morning,” Konta said.
“I don’t think it is healthy – in fact it is quite dangerous.
“However, Garbine and I were both in the same position and, with the circumstances, we really put on a great match and it’s just a shame more people couldn’t enjoy it.”
Konta’s defeat means there are no British players left in the singles in Melbourne.
She said she and Muguruza were not given the option to postpone the match until day five.
The latest finish in Australian Open history is a 2008 third-round match between Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis that ended at 04:34.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza took her first match point to win in two hours 42 minutes.
“I can’t believe there are people watching us at 3:15am,” the former world number one said.
“We play for you guys watching – otherwise why are we here?
“It was very tough. Johanna played very good, serving incredibly and hitting big shots. I just tried to hang in there.”
- Williams makes light work of Bouchard
- World number one Halep survives scare
- I’ve been physically threatened by Tomic, says Hewitt
Konta pipped in match which neither deserved to lose
The players did not walk out on to Melbourne Park’s second show court until 00:22 local time after the final match of the day was pushed back as a result of Kei Nishikori’s win over Ivo Karlovic and Alexander Zverev’s victory against Jeremy Chardy, with both taking almost four hours.
When the match between Zverev and Chardy went into a fifth set, tournament organisers were planning to switch the match to court three but halted that plan with the German fourth seed Zverev rattling towards victory – and because seagull droppings on the outside court would have taken too long to clear.
British number one Konta threw the first ball at 00:30 local time in what was an eerie atmosphere in front of a sparse crowd in the 10,000-seat arena.
Despite the enforced wait, both women produced a high-quality match in which they provided reminders of their pedigrees after falling down the rankings in recent times.
The match could have swung either way, with defeat harsh on whoever ended up the loser.
Konta hit a forehand into the net after Muguruza upped the ante to clinch victory with only the second break of the match.
- Live scores, schedule and results
- Follow the Australian Open on BBC TV, radio and online
- Alerts: Get tennis news sent to your phone
Britain’s final singles hope bows out
Seven Britons, including Andy Murray and men’s number one Kyle Edmund, were knocked out in the opening three days of the first Grand Slam of the year.
Konta, now ranked 38th in the world, reached the Melbourne semi-finals in 2016 but a pronounced dip in form saw her drop as low as 50th in the world last summer.
Despite the nature of the defeat, she will take encouragement from one of her best performances in recent times.
Konta made a slow start, losing her serve in the opening game and was unable to win a point on Muguruza’s first two service games.
But she grew into the contest and matched Muguruza’s power in an entertaining battle.
Konta hit 13 winners in the first set as she attacked, but was unable to convert a break point for 3-4 when she missed a cross-court forehand – one of 13 unforced errors which ultimately proved the difference in that set.
Both missed break points in a tight second set – Konta in the fourth game and Muguruza in the ninth – leading to a tie-beak.
Konta earned a mini-break with a wonderful deep backhand, moved to the brink with an ace down the middle for 6-3, then took the match into a decider with a forehand winner.
Serve continued to dominate in the final set, with Konta winning 31% of receiving points and Muguruza’s 29%, and not a single break point on offer.
A final-set tie-break looked destined to settle the match until Muguruza seized control.
BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller at Melbourne Park
Johanna Konta should ask to play in the early hours of every morning. To lose such an outstanding match by such a tight margin may sting in the short term, but this was the best match I have seen her play in 18 months.
Konta served superbly and matched Muguruza’s aggression by striking the ball just as powerfully and cleanly. In an exemplary second-set tie-break, a backhand cross-court winner was the highlight, a full throttle forehand return the clincher.
Muguruza deserves huge credit for closing out the match with two classy returns – it is just such a shame so few were watching.
There should have been 7,500 captivated fans inside the arena, rather than a few hundred night owls.
Scheduling is not tennis’ strong point.