British number one Cameron Norrie missed out on a quarter-final against Novak Djokovic after losing in straight sets to Taylor Fritz at the Rolex Paris Masters.
Norrie, whose victory over Reilly Opelka on Wednesday was his 50th of a hugely successful year, was beaten 6-3 7-6 (3) in the last 16 to suffer a major blow to his chances of qualifying for the season-ending ATP Finals.
The 26-year-old almost made the ideal start in the opening game, only for Fritz to save the sole break point he faced in the set with a brilliant backhand winner down the line.
Two double faults from Norrie in the sixth game then gifted Fritz the decisive break of serve and the American held his nerve to close out the set.
Norrie saved two break points in the seventh game of the second set to keep his nose in front and then forged two set points in the 10th but was unable to convert and Fritz powered through the eventual tie-break.
“Taylor was too good today,” Norrie said in his post-match press conference. “Really big moments he served well, came up with big shots, played aggressive, he was moving extremely well.
“(Since the) last time I played him, he’s moving a lot better. All credit to him. He played a very clean match and was very consistent throughout the whole match, so it was too good.”
Norrie’s defeat means that he would have to win next week’s event in Stockholm to have a chance of qualifying for the ATP Finals, and only if rivals Hubert Hurkacz and Casper Ruud fail to gain more points.
“It’s looking unlikely, I guess,” Norrie admitted. “I haven’t done the math or anything, but I think they were ahead of me already and for them to still be in the tournament it looks difficult.
“I’m going to go to Turin anyway, I will be an alternate there and then I will go and get prepared and get ready for Davis Cup.”
Speaking in a post-match courtside interview, Fritz said: “Cam and I have played a lot and it’s always a battle when we play – except last time when he beat me pretty bad.
“He’s always so tough to beat and I came out here and I played my best tennis and it feels great. It was a lot of fun.”
Fritz will next face Djokovic after the world number one was handed a walkover when last-16 opponent Gael Monfils was forced to withdraw with a leg injury.
Djokovic has won all four of their previous meetings, two coming in 2019 and two this year, and Fritz added: “Obviously (it’s) very tough playing Novak. It’s going to be my third time this year so hopefully this time will be different.”