Andy Murray lost a three-hour epic at the Swiss Indoors, Basel, while Cameron Norrie fell to Alexander Zverev at the Vienna Open on a bad night for the Brits.
Murray erased an early break deficit in the opening set to grab it 7-6 (7-5) but the former world No 1 ran out of gas midway through the second set and lost the next two sets 6-3 6-2 in a three-hour-and-eight-minute battle against Argentine Tomas Etcheverry.
After Murray was broken in his first service game, he responded with a superb lob for break point before a volley at the net got the tie back on serve at 2-2.
A tie-break was eventually required and a classy drop shot helped Murray take the first set.
The 84-minute set appeared to take its toll on the 36-year-old at the beginning of the second with Etcheverry able to establish an early advantage and he saved four break points in a lengthy seventh game on his way to forcing a decider.
Murray was struggling physically by this point, while Etcheverry was in the ascendancy and he set up match point with a superb passing stroke before a service winner sent him through to the last eight.
The Scot is now expected to head to France where he will compete at the Paris Masters, which begins on Monday.
Defending champion Felix Auger-Aliassime defeated local wild card Leandro Riedi 6-3 6-2 to reach the last 16 in Switzerland, while there were wins for Casper Ruud and Taylor Fritz against Alexander Bublik and Max Purcell respectively.
In Vienna, Norrie lost 6-2 6-4 to Zverev, with the German firing 23 winners to Norrie’s eight in his 79-minute triumph to improve to 4-0 in meetings against his opponent.
Norrie came into the clash having snapped his losing run following a fruitless swing to Asia against Austria’s world No 169 Filip Misolic in the first round.
The British No 1 fell at the first stage in Beijing and Shanghai, as well as last week’s Japan Open in Tokyo.
A superb backhand winner down the line earned Zverev a break in Norrie’s first service game and he was broken again before losing the first set in 36 minutes.
Norrie tried to wrestle his way back into the contest, but was broken again in the third game of the second set.
It remained on serve until Norrie forced two break opportunities when Zverev was serving for the match and yet the German responded by winning four consecutive points to close out a solid win, which makes it four defeats in five for last year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist.
Top seed Daniil Medvedev sealed a dominant 6-4 6-2 win against 19-year-old Arthur Fils, losing just five points on serve.
“I was a little bit nervous coming into the match,” Medvedev said, explaining that he took a week off from practice following Shanghai, during which time he celebrated his daughter’s birthday.
“Arthur wants this top win and he’s going to get it one day. But luckily I managed to serve well, play well, kind of work him out during the match and it worked, so I’m very happy.”
Stockholm champion Gael Monfils also earned victory in Vienna, extending his winning streak to six matches with a 6-4 6-4 win against Daniel Altmaier.
Italian Jannik Sinner held firm for victory in a hard-hitting opening-round clash against Ben Shelton, prevailing 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 to avenge his defeat to the American in Shanghai two weeks ago.
“It was a very tough match. He always serves really well, and today was obviously the same,” said Sinner. “He is confident, he is a very tough player to beat. I was looking forward to it. I lost the last match-up, so I’m happy that I won this one. I’m already looking forward to the next one.”
Alcaraz fit to play in Paris & Turin
Carlos Alcaraz announced on social media on Wednesday that he is fit to play in the Paris Masters and the ATP Finals.
“I have good news!” Alcaraz posted. “I am feeling better every day and I will play Paris-Bercy and be in Turin for the ATP Finals! Excited to finish the year on a high!”
The Spaniard withdrew ahead of the Swiss Indoors Basel due to a left foot injury and muscle fatigue to his lower back.
The Paris Masters begin on Monday, while the ATP Finals runs from November 12 until November 19.
Osaka back in training
Naomi Osaka, the four-time Grand Slam champion, gave birth to a daughter, Shai, in July, and now she is preparing for her tennis return, posting a video on her social media account hitting tennis balls during a practice session.
GB to play on opening day of United Cup
Great Britain will play Australia on the opening day of the 2024 United Cup, the mixed team event beginning 29 December at RAC Arena in Perth.
The British team led by Cameron Norrie and Katie Boulter, including Dan Evans, Neal Skupski, Fran Jones and Maia Lumsden, will take on world No 13 Alex de Minaur alongside Ajla Tomljanovic, John Millman, Storm Hunter, Matt Ebden and Ellen Perez.
Each tie will comprise one men’s singles and one women’s singles match followed by one mixed doubles match.
Singles matches are best of three tie-break sets. Mixed doubles matches are two tie-break sets with a deciding match tie-break (10 point) at one set-all.
The 18 teams have been divided into six groups, with three playing the preliminary stage in Perth on Australia’s West Coast and three playing in Sydney.