Andy Murray's revival in his penultimate tournament of the season was ended in straight sets by a familiar foe, Fernando Verdasco, in the Shenzhen Open quarter-finals on Friday.
Britain's former world number one had made decent strides with two previous wins this week as he continued to make promising progress on his comeback from hip surgery in January, but he was well beaten 6-4, 6-4 by the Spanish veteran Verdasco.
It was a repeat of the 34-year-old's straight sets victory over Murray in the second round of the US Open in August. The two wins in a month came after Verdasco had previously suffered eight consecutive defeats to the Scot stretching back nine years.
Murray, down to 311 in the world rankings, had enjoyed the best win of his comeback by beating David Goffin on Thursday but fifth seed Verdasco was too solid and occasionally spectacular, cracking 11 aces and 38 winners in his one hour 40-minute win.
It set up Verdasco's first hardcourt semi-final berth for nearly a year against Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka who, like the Spaniard, beat a Briton, as he outclassed Cameron Norrie 7-6(2), 6-2.
Murray will go on to next week's China Open in Beijing, his last event of his truncated six-tournament season before he concentrates on ensuring he is in his best possible shape for the Australian Open.
The other semi-final will see rising Australian teenager Alex de Minaur, who defeated Bosnia's Damir Dzumhur 6-3, 7-6(7), face France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who battled from a set down past Spain's Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-7(6), 7-6(1), 6-4.
Sabalenka to face Kontaveit for Wuhan title
Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus overcame last year's runner-up Ashleigh Barty 7-6(2), 6-4 in the Wuhan Open semi-finals on Friday to set up a title clash with Estonian Anett Kontaveit on Saturday.
Sabalenka began slowly and trailed 5-3 in the opening set. The 20-year-old broke back with some big first serves to level at 5-5 before taking the set in the tie-break.
The Belarusian switched gears in the next set and sealed victory over the Australian in one hour and 25 minutes, firing 26 winners in the match.
"I just tried to focus on my game and focus on every point and this was the key. Tomorrow I just want to enjoy myself and show my best," Sabalenka said.
Barty said Sabalenka has enjoyed a phenomenal season.
"It was bound to happen, to be honest. She's an absolute quality player."
Sabalenka won her maiden trophy on the WTA Tour at the Connecticut Open in August.
Standing in her way is Kontaveit, who reached her first final of the season after her Chinese opponent Wang Qiang retired from their semi-final with a thigh problem while trailing 2-6, 1-2.
Saturday's match will be the first meeting between Kontaveit and Sabalenka.