Andy Murray was knocked out of the Zhuhai Championships after suffering a three-set defeat against Australia’s Alex De Minaur in the last 16 on Thursday.
The 32-year-old continued his return from hip surgery by claiming his first ATP Tour singles win since January with victory over Tennys Sandgren in the previous round, although he was unable to progress through to the quarter-finals in China.
Despite taking the opening set and putting up a valiant late fight against the seventh seed, Murray eventually fell 4-6 6-2 6-4 in a hard-fought contest which lasted two hours and 42 minutes.
Murray was punished for a nervy start when he was broken by De Minaur in only the third game.
However, the former world number one recovered impressively and managed to level things at 3-3 before breaking his opponent again in the 10th to clinch the set.
De Minaur then stepped up the pace in the second set and Murray was unable to match it.
The Australian made his presence felt with an early break and then added another in game seven, before serving out to love to take the contest into a decider.
Murray faced two more break points in the opening game but was able to keep his opponent at bay on this occasion and the set stayed on serve until the ninth when De Minaur went 40-0 up on the Murray serve.
The Scot was unable to survive this time and De Minaur punished a weak second serve to break and serve for the match himself.
That proved no easy feat for the Australian, who had to fend off three break points against a resilient Murray, but De Minaur managed to make his second match point count against the three-time Grand Slam champion.
Nevertheless, there were plenty of positives to take for Murray, who is currently ranked 413th in the world.
“I’m not playing top 20 or top 30 tennis right now. I’m probably playing top 70 or top 60 sort of level. However, I can still make a few improvements in the next couple of days before playing in Beijing,” said the Scot.
“My feeling tonight was that at points I played very well, but I didn’t feel like I was able to sustain my level.
“The second set I dropped and also in the third set, in comparison to the first set, it was a little bit scrappy, there was some good points in there, some good stuff.
“But for me physically I was struggling and I could play one or two good points, but then I was trying to finish the points a little bit early and shot selection then goes down when you’re tired,” he added.
Elsewhere, top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas retired during his second-round clash against Adrian Mannarino.
The Greek is one of a number of players who took part in the Laver Cup last weekend to have struggled this week and the 21-year-old pulled out with illness after losing the second set to Mannarino.
Second seed Roberto Bautista Agut progressed to the last eight after overcoming fellow countryman Pablo Andujar 7-5 7-5, while Andreas Seppi saved five match points in a deciding tie-break against China’s Zhang Zhizhen, eventually winning 7-6 4-6 7-6.