British No 2 Dan Evans was knocked out of the Italian Open after losing a near four-hour epic to Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena in the second round in Rome.
Evans was defeated 7-6 (7-5) 5-7 6-4 in three hours and 48 minutes, the longest best-of-three-set match of the season so far.
Evans, who was seeded 20th for the event, had a bye in round one and has never before won a main draw match on the clay in Rome.
The 32-year-old had led 5-2 in the first set and served for it but Carballes Baena rallied to take a 6-5 lead before a rain interruption.
On the resumption, Evans managed to break his opponent and force a tie-break which Carballes Baena – ranked 51st in the world – ultimately edged 7-5.
The second set proved to be a tight affair until Evans broke at 5-5 and then served out the set to level the match.
In the decider, it was Evans’ nerve which this time failed first as, serving 5-4 down, a couple of unforced errors and a double fault on match point handed the win to his opponent.
Alcaraz overcomes sluggish start to progress
Earlier, world No 2 Carlos Alcaraz marked his Italian Open debut by shaking off a sluggish start to emerge with an efficient 6-4 6-1 win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round.
Barcelona and Madrid champion Alcaraz, who is chasing his fifth title of 2023 and fourth on clay ahead of Roland Garros, overcame an early loss of serve to level up the opening set at 2-2.
The 20-year-old, who will take over as world No 1 from Novak Djokovic later this month, earned another chance to break Ramos-Vinolas with a deft drop shot in an intense 10th game and took the advantage in the match when his Spanish compatriot finally cracked under the pressure and sent a forehand long.
Alcaraz continued to build momentum and raced ahead 3-0 in the second set, wrapping up the match on serve to make it 12 wins in a row. He will next face Jiri Lehecka or Hungarian qualifier Fabian Marozsan.
Elsewhere, Monte Carlo champion Andrey Rublev overcame Alex Molcan 6-3 6-4 to book his place in the third round. JJ Wolf eliminated 14th-seeded Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-4 and Borna Coric rallied past Thiago Monteiro 4-6, 7-6 (10-8), 7-6 (7-5).