Greg Rusedski's magnificent run of success came to an end yesterday when he was beaten by Goran Ivanisevic in the final of the CA Trophy.
The British No 1, who beat his compatriot Tim Henman in straight sets in the semi-final, went down 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-2, 6-3 to Goran Ivanisevic. The Croat has now won all their six meetings, including a semi-final victory on grass at Queen's Club in June.
Rusedski had seemed to be cruising at two sets up and had several chances to win, but Ivanisevic drew on his considerable experience to pull the match back from the brink of defeat.
The victory would have been nice for Rusedski, but making the final keeps him on course for a place in the lucrative ATP Tour World Championship at Hanover next month, where only the top eight players since 1 January 1997 compete. It also helps in his bid to hold on to his place as the world No 4.
Meanwhile, Rusedski's current form has prompted the bookmakers, Ladbrokes, to cut his 1998 Wimbledon odds to 10-1 from 12-1. Henman remains 16-1. A Ladbrokes spokesman said: "This is the shortest price a Briton has ever been for Wimbledon."
Rusedski paid tribute to Ivanisevic after the pair exchanged several glares during the match - during which Ivanisevic was given a code of conduct warning.
"I gave 100 per cent, but the best player won," Rusedski said. "I have nothing to regret. You learn more from losing than from winning."
Rusedski obtained an early break in the first set and fittingly produced an ace - his 10th - to seal it 6-3. Ivanisevic found his serving rhythm in the second, matching the Briton without ever really threatening his serve.
The Croat chalked up his 1,000th ace of the year as the set moved towards a tie-break. Ivanisevic lost the first point with a double-fault and never recovered as Rusedski held firm to take it 7-4 and go two sets up.
Ivanisevic clung to his serve in the third set despite fine returning from Rusedski. The Croat saved 11 break points, then moved up a gear in the tie-break, taking it 7-4.
Rusedski, looking for his second successive title after victory last week in Basle, lost his serve, which had been impeccable during the week, twice in the fourth set as Ivanisevic won it 6-2.
The Briton broke back to lead 2-0 in the decisive set, but Ivanisevic immediately regained the break and then broke Rusedski again for a 5-3 lead. Ivanisevic then served out for the match - but not before saving three break points.