Australian beach volleyball duo Natalie Cook and Tamsin Hinchley's Olympic campaign hangs by a tread after they suffered their second straight defeat at the London Games.
Five-time Olympian Cook and her Beijing Games partner Hinchley, herself a veteran of three Olympics, squandered a handful of match-points before going down 18-21 22-20 15-10 to Austrian sisters Stefanie and Doris Schwaiger at Horse Guards Parade on Monday night.
"Before we knew it the match just snowballed and it was taken from a clasp. But there was not one moment in that set that I thought we were going to lose," said a disappointed Cook, who will retire from the sport at the conclusion of these Games.
"I will have nightmares of that second set."
An emotional Hinchley, who finished fifth with Cook in Beijing, gave an emotional television interview after the match, when she told of the sacrifices of leaving her son Arley and husband Andrew in Melbourne, as she chased her dream.
"I have sacrificed a lot and leaving my son Arley and husband wasn't easy and I have to thank my family for all the support they have given me as I toured the world chasing my dreams," Hinchley said.
The Australians had looked the dominant pair from the outset, with a series of successful digs by Sydney Games gold medallist Cook helping take the first set.
Cook and Hinchley appeared poised for a win after bringing up three match points in the second set, but the Austrians levelled at a set apiece with a stunning fightback.
The momentum stayed with the Austrian duo in the decider as they raced into a 5-1 lead, with Cook and Hinchley unable to bridge the gap handing victory to the Schwaiger sisters.
The Australians were hoping to rebound from a frustrating narrow defeat to America's reigning two-time Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh in their opening preliminary stage match, but a second loss leaves them sitting bottom of their pool.
They now face a must-win match against Czech pair Marketa Slukova and Kristyna Kolocova at 10pm Wednesday night (7am Thursday AEST).
Cook said they would watch a video of their match against the Czech girls, re-group and come back on Wednesday to try to win their first match.
"We'll just have to wait and see what happens," she said.