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Alex de Minaur's hopes of successfully defending an ATP title for the first time have been ended at the Eastbourne International by American Taylor Fritz.
Alex de Minaur's hopes of going into Wimbledon as a two-time Eastbourne International champion have been dashed on England's south coast.
The Australian No.1 got into a familiar dogfight, scrapping for all he was worth but still ended up going down in Friday's semi-final to former Eastbourne champion Taylor Fritz 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-3.
It was a disappointing end to the Sydneysider's hopes of successfully defending an ATP title for the first time but he has looked in shape all week to think about the prospect of enjoying a decent run at Wimbledon.
Earlier in the day, he had learned that his first-round opponent at the All England Club on Tuesday will be Bolivian Hugo Dellien, a rather kinder draw than last year when he was pitted with young gun Sebastian Korda.
But a more difficult contest could await de Minaur if he makes it into the second round, with a possible clash against rising British star Jack Draper, who exited in the other Eastbourne semi-final on Friday, beaten by towering serve-and-volleyer Maxime Cressy 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (2-7) 6-3.
Once again, de Minaur, whose win last year took him to a new career-high of 15, showed his battling spirit as Fritz looked set to race away to victory after taking the first set and creating two break point opportunities in the opening game of the second.
De Minaur, now down to No.24, began to drag the big-serving American into longer rallies and took the second set before Fritz again took the initiative in the final stanza, and his delivery was still unbroken after two hard-fought hours.
Not for the first time in his career, de Minaur found his opponent's heavier artillery too much to cope with, Fritz banging down 13 aces and 35 winners.
In the men's doubles final at Devonish Park, Australian Luke Saville and his partner Matwe Middelkoop were beaten by Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic 6-4 6-2.