Australian Matt Ebden has been thwarted in his bid to become the world No.1 doubles player, suffering an off day on the way to getting knocked out in the last-four at the ATP Finals in Turin.
The 35-year-old Ebden was left a picture of disappointment after he and 43-year-old Indian partner Rohan Bopanna were beaten 7-5 6-4 in the semi-finals by Spain's Marcel Granollers and Argentina's Horacio Zeballos in the Pala Alpitour on Saturday.
In a match dominated by serve, two poor games on Ebden's delivery - one in either set - was enough to tip the tie decisively in favour of Granollers and Zeballos, whose 80-minute victory denied their opponents the chance to finish the season as the world No.1 team while enhancing their own hopes of achieving the same landmark.
After missing a rare earlier opportunity to break their opponents, Ebden, enjoying the best season of his distinguished doubles career, served two double faults at 5-5 to help gift Granollers and Zeballos the first-set breakthrough.
Another two double faults from the Australian in the fourth game of the second set again helped set up a break for 3-1, which eventually proved calamitous for the veteran third-seeded pairing.
"We tried to think that every match was a final because every match was against a great team," Zeballos said after the victory. "We tried to be positive and offensive and it is working so far - so we will try the same tomorrow."
Granollers and Zeballos will now be hoping to earn their first ATP Finals triumph in Sunday's final where they'll face defending champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury.
The US-British pairing downed No.4 seeds Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 10-7.
It marked an anti-climactic end to a triumphant campaign for Ebden and Bopanna, who have reached seven finals this season since teaming up at the start of the year, winning two titles in Doha and Indian Wells and also finishing runners-up at the US Open final to Ram and Salisbury.
On Friday, when they had beaten Wimbledon champions, Briton Ken Skupski and Dutchman Wesley Koolhof, Bopanna had enhanced his newly-established record as the oldest man ever to win a match at the ATP Finals.