Marina Erakovic's tournament may be over, but there are at least positive signs for the rest of 2016 for the New Zealander.

After a strong first up win on Tuesday, Erakovic lost 7-6 (4) 6-3 today to Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru in the second round of the ASB Classic.

It continues a run of moderate performances at her home tournament. On the credit side the 27-year-old has reached the second round in three of the last four years here but, on the other hand, Erakovic hasn't progressed beyond the second round since 2008.

Today felt like something of a missed opportunity - especially since the draw has opened up at this tournament - but Erakovic's lack of match practice was always going to count against her at some stage.


Before Tuesday, Erakovic hadn't played since the US Open in September, when she retired hurt with a knee injury in her first round match. And even before then she had an abbreviated schedule, after first having the knee complaint at Wimbledon.

World No 66 Dulgheru is a tricky opponent; a player who doesn't make mistakes but tends to coerce plenty from her opponents. She doesn't have too many weapons but yesterday just needed to be solid, and drew Erakovic into errors. The New Zealander matched her for long periods of both sets but faltered at the vital points.

"The level was very good, I felt Alex played very well and overall I struggled to find the gaps, spaces for the patterns for my game," said Erakovic. "My serve wasn't going as well today and she served well on important points. Overall it was a high level of tennis. It was tough to lose but there were no issues with my body and that was the main thing for me."

Her next assignment is Australian Open qualifying and beyond that either "a plan A or plan B", depending on her results in Melbourne. The world No135 plans a off-season like training bloc - in either southern Spain or Florida and will also play the South American swing of the WTA tour before Indian Wells and the rest of the North American sector.

Erakovic faces a battle to return to the top 100 - and ultimately get near the top 50 - but her belief remains strong, and is certainly healthier than it was in September last year.

"I proved to myself that the level is still there, that I can play good tennis," said Erakovic. "I feel comfortable out there and can go against anyone. I've played a couple of good matches [here], at a good level and can only improve from here."