Bernard Tomic's bid to prove himself worthy of an Australian Open wildcard has been damaged by a straight-sets second-round loss at an ATP challenger event.
The Australian lost 7-6, 7-6 to Poland's world number 125 Jerzey Janowicz at the Slovak Open in Tomic's first appearance on the secondary ATP tour since 2013.
Tomic's ranking has plummeted to 144 — well outside automatic qualification for January's Australian Open.
After 13 first-round losses in 2017, the 25-year-old former world number 17 faces being forced to qualify for next season's opening major in Melbourne, where he has reached the fourth round on three occasions.
Prior to the latest loss, Tennis Australia (TA) chief executive Craig Tiley reiterated that Tomic was not guaranteed an Open wildcard.
The decision to grant him one ahead of other candidates will fall to Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt and TA performance director Wally Masur.
"You look at Alex De Minaur and Alexei Popyrin and Thanasi Kokkinakis coming back, there is a long list of young players who have performed extremely well out on the circuit and opportunities like that help kickstart their careers," Tiley told Melbourne radio 3AW.
"Bernie's had plenty of opportunities. Nothing's guaranteed and he's going through that journey of learning that now."
Meanwhile, retired star Pat Cash has urged organisers to send Tomic into the qualification process.
Against Janowicz, Tomic took a 2-0 lead in the second-set tiebreak before losing the next seven points.
He is expected to contest another challenger event in Italy this month.