British interest in the singles at the Australian Open ended on Monday as Cameron Norrie agonisingly lost a final set tie-break to sixth seed Alexander Zverev.
Norrie was bold and aggressive in his fourth-round clash, but late errors cost him as Zverev progressed with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 triumph and the German will now take on Carlos Alcaraz in the quarter-finals.
Now 8-1 for the season, Zverev, is one of the form players in the world, but Norrie may lament a case of what might have been in a match that saw him unsettle his opponent but fail to convert his chances.
The 19th seed's game may have unravelled when it mattered, but the 2022 Wimbledon semi-finalist will leave Australia with his head held high as he looks towards SW19, where he is 66/1 to win, following a personal best result Down Under that shows he can still improve.
Regardless of Monday's result, Norrie had surpassed his previous efforts Down Under by reaching the fourth round for the first time.
After opening his tournament with a routine 6-4 6-4 6-2 win over JP Varillas, he battled back from two sets down to beat Italian qualifier Giulio Zeppieri 3-6 6-7 6-2 6-4 6-4 and set up a third-round clash with three-time Grand Slam finalist and 11th seed Casper Ruud.
Ruud's pedigree and higher ranking made him the favourite, but Norrie produced one of his best performances, pushing the Norwegian all around the court to triumph 6-4 6-7 6-4 6-3.
Norrie went into his fourth-round match having failed to beat Zverev in their previous four meetings and having been unable to take a set off his opponent in any of those matches.
However, he previously had a similar record against Ruud but unsettled the Norwegian by mixing up his game and repeated that formula on Monday, regularly moving to the net and utilising drop shots to disrupt his opponent's rhythm.
After trading sets, a tie-break was required in the decider and the momentum appeared to be with the Brit, only for errors to cost him.
A couple of poor drop shots allowed Zverev to move into a 4-2 lead, before a double fault from Norrie put his opponent 6-2 ahead and in control.
Although the focus was on Norrie's late shortcomings, Zverev still played exceptionally well, racking up 54 winners, including 15 aces, while his consistency from the baseline when he found a way to dictate the flow of the game also gave him a clear advantage.
Monday's defeat will obviously hurt Norrie, but he can take positives from the form he has shown Down Under, where he showed in beating Ruud that he can compete with and even occasionally outlast the elite.
Prior to the Australian Open, he showed signs of form in both the United Cup and Auckland and he tends to go well in the opening part of the year.
Norrie lost to Alcaraz in the final of last February's Argentina Open before getting revenge on the Spaniard soon after at the Rio Open. He also won Delray Beach and reached the final in Acapulco in early 2022.
Norrie's next outings will likely be in the Americas, depending on whether he fancies some clay court play or prioritises building by sticking to the hard courts ahead of the 'Sunshine Double' in Indian Wells and Miami.
He won Indian Wells in 2021, when it was rescheduled for October, and has also reached the quarter-finals in the last couple of years.
Beyond that, after reaching the fourth round in Melbourne for the first time, he will be looking to emulate that in Paris in the spring.
The left-hander has been eliminated in the third round in the last three years and is 80/1 to win the French Open.
Monday's defeat is a blow, but recent history shows that Norrie can look forward to the spring with optimism.