Andy Murray's 17-match unbeaten run came to an end as he was beaten by Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals of the Paris Masters.
The British number one fought valiantly but fell to a 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 defeat by world number seven Berdych.
After taking the first set, Murray lost a fiercely contested second and was then edged out in the third.
Czech Berdych will face Roger Federer in the semi-finals after the Swiss beat Juan Monaco in their last-eight match.
"At the end I was just fighting. I wasn't hitting the ball unbelievably. I was just fighting, making a lot of balls," said Murray.
"I don't think he missed a first serve on any of the break points. On this surface that's a huge advantage."
The Scot had lost two of his three previous encounters with Berdych however and, as in their last meeting at Roland Garros in 2010, he succumbed to the right-hander's heavy-hitting style.
Murray had chances to advance to the last four, and will reflect particularly on the fourth game of the deciding set.
Having forced two break points, Murray was irritated by an unscheduled switch of balls, approved by umpire Fergus Murphy, that preceded Berdych saving both.
"Tomas decided that the balls were too soft - which they weren't," Murray explained.
"The umpire gave him three brand new balls to serve with. I wasn't aware that they were just changing three brand new balls.
"Then that totally changed the way the ball plays and the court plays.
"I just asked, 'Is it not normal to let the opponent also see the balls?'"
It seemed unlikely that such incidents could contribute to Murray's demise, after he kept Berdych at bay to hold onto the only break of the opening set.
Murray picked off Berdych with a forehand pass as the 2010 Wimbledon finalist advanced behind his serve once too often in the seventh game and defended stubbornly to hold from 15-40 in the following game.
However, Berdych left Murray floundering in his wake in the early part of the second set as he hit a period of irresistible form.
Fortunate to escape having been broken just once under a barrage of heavy groundstrokes, Murray pounced to break back in the ninth as the flow of winners from Berdych's racquet gradually slowed.
The world number three's rearguard action came undone in the tie-break though as he sent a straightforward forehand long, and Berdych capitalised to seal the set with a simple volley into the open court on the next point.
After squandering his chance to break in the fourth game of the decider, a frustrated Murray slumped alarmingly in the ninth as he handed Berdych three break points.
He salvaged two, but double-faulted on the third and, despite Berdych offering up three break points in the final game, Murray failed to land the immediate counter-punch required to stay in the tournament.
"It was really one of the best three-sets matches I played," said Berdych.
"This kind of match cannot happen with just one player, Andy played a good game, as well."