Kyle Edmund chalked up another lesson in his tennis education as he was edged out by Kevin Anderson in the third round of the French Open.
The British No 2 led by two sets to one but Anderson proved just too strong in the end, winning 6-7 (6/8) 7-6 (7/4) 5-7 6-1 6-4 after three hours and 59 minutes.
Edmund can take much encouragement from his performance and his run here, with straight-sets victories over Gastao Elias and Renzo Olivo to reach the third round for the first time.
The 22-year-old said: “It was a good match. It was a long one. There was so much to take from it positively, stuff I’ve been working on and showing good maturity in my game.
“It was just very small margins. That’s the difference at this level and you learn as you go up. You’re not going to get masses of opportunities. It’s a few points here and there.
“And I think he also played a good match. I played a good match and I’m disappointed to lose. I would love to have won and got to the fourth round of the French, and especially win that type of match in the fifth set. But quality by him.
“So I just have to talk about it, learn from it and keep moving forward. But I think I’m moving in the right direction.”
Anderson is ranked seven places below Edmund at 56 but is a much better player than that.
He broke into the top 10 after beating Andy Murray at the US Open two years ago before injuries struck and is working his way back up.
The 31-year-old is also one of the tallest players on tour at 6ft 8in and has a serve to match.
Edmund got nowhere near it in the opening set but still won the set thanks to a confident and mature display.
Anderson tried to keep the ball away from the young Briton’s thumping forehand but found the backhand just as lethal.
One searing backhand pass at 6-6 in the tie-break set up a second set point for Edmund, which he took when Anderson dumped a forehand in the net.
The South African had taken a medical time-out at 5-4 to have more tape added to an already heavily-strapped left thigh but it did not appear to affect him as he hit back to level.
Edmund’s serve had been the one under more pressure but he finally created a couple of break points at 5-5 in the third set and seized his chance.
Having worked so hard to get his nose back in front, Edmund then won just eight points in the fourth set but refocused for the decider.
He fought back from 0-40 in the fifth game but his resistance ran out at 4-4 as Anderson moved through to a fourth-round clash with Marin Cilic.
Edmund will head home to begin his preparations for the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club in two weeks’ time, but one big positive to take was how well he coped physically.
The Briton, who was playing only his fourth five-set match, has struggled with cramp in the past.
He said: “I held up pretty well. It gives me confidence. I’m still fairly young at the five sets. I haven’t played a huge amount. I didn’t lose the match for a physical reason. It was because of tennis.
“It’s a constant work in progress to improve your fitness. But it shows that I’ve been working on it and the stuff that we’re doing is working well.”