Daria Saville’s luck has finally run out at the Madrid Open as Australia’s sole woman representative in the big clay-court event got knocked out — for a second time in four days.

The Australian number one had been given a reprieve after getting eliminated in qualifying by Romania’s Jaqueline Cristian on Tuesday when she earned a lucky loser’s ticket into the main draw following the withdrawal of Karolina Pliskova through injury.

The second chance was gleefully taken advantage of by 30-year-old Saville, as she went on to win her first-round match against American Hailey Baptiste on Wednesday.

But the Melbourne battler met her match in Friday’s last-64 encounter, outplayed by Russia’s 20th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 6-4 in Stadium 3’s early match at the Caja Magica.

Not for the first time for Saville, in what’s proving a lean patch for Australian women’s tennis, she was the only one to make the main draw of one of the big European tournaments in the clay-court swing, with compatriots Taylah Preston and Astra Sharma having been eliminated in qualifying.

But ‘Dasha’ continues to fly the flag, with her ranking set to improve to number 86 next week, a considerable leap from when she stood at number 204 at the start of the year following what had been a tough post-injury comeback 2023 season.

Much rests on her as the only Australian woman currently in the top 100, with Storm Hunter sidelined by a serious Achilles injury and Ajla Tomljanovic yet to make her return after undergoing surgery to remove non-cancerous uterine tumours.

The Moscow-born Saville, who came through the junior ranks in Russia with Pavlyuchenkova, showed in her latest duel with her old colleague that she still has plenty of fight in her to improve and get back close to the top-20 player she was in 2017 before her injury setbacks.

But, ultimately, former French Open finalist Pavlyuchenkova was too powerful as she broke — for the fourth time — in the ninth game of the second set before wrapping up victory in one hour, 27 minutes.

Meanwhile, on the main Manolo Santana Stadium court, reigning champ Aryna Sabalenka had to overcome serious resistance from Poland’s Magda Linette before progressing with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win.

Sabalenka, winner in 2021 and 2023, hopes it’s an omen, having also gone out at the first hurdle in 2018, 2019 and 2022.

“Hopefully it’s going to be a good sign and I will keep it like that,” the Belarusian smiled. “I either lose in the first or I win the title.”

Fourth seed Elena Rybakina, seeking her fourth title this year, also won, defeating Lucia Bronzetti 6-4 6-3, and she’ll next face Egypt’s Mayar Sherif, who upset Marta Kostyuk 6-2 7-5.

Sixteen-year-old Mirra Andreeva, who enjoyed her breakout tournament in Madrid last year, advanced by beating Linda Noskova 4-6 6-3 6-3.

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AAP

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