Andy Murray was unable to exorcise another of his demons at the Rogers Cup in Canada as Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal maintained his stranglehold on the British number one.
Murray, who beat world number three Novak Djokovic for the first time in five attempts yesterday, matched the Spaniard stroke for stroke for long periods but was ultimately found wanting on the big points as Nadal won 7-6 (7/2) 6-4 to reach the final.
The Scot, who has now lost all five meetings with the world number two, may have failed to avenge his quarter-final mauling at SW19 earlier this month but he can take heart from a much-improved display in this Masters Series semi-final.
The win was Nadal's 28th in a row and it appears only a matter of time before he usurps Roger Federer as world number one.
The Spaniard hit less than half as many winners as Murray but the Scot also made more than twice as many errors.
However, this was a far cry from their one-sided Wimbledon encounter, with Murray giving as good as he got from the back of the court.
An aggressive approach almost paid dividends early on when he took Nadal to deuce in game two but the Spaniard won an extraordinary rally to hold serve.
That was the closest either player came to a break point in a high-quality opening set, which eventually went to a tie-break.
Murray twice netted forehands to hand Nadal set point before double-faulting to gift him the set.
At the changeover before the start of set two, Murray had his right knee examined.
But if he was in any discomfort, it did not initially show as he immediately earned the first break points of the match.
Nadal saved one with a truly outrageous drop shot from the baseline, while Murray netted on the second.
A similar error handed Nadal the first break of the match in the very next game but a double-fault from the Spaniard saw Murray level immediately.
Another tie-break looked likely until Nadal secured another vital break in the eighth game.
With the Spaniard now serving for the match, Murray superbly saved two match points but missed a close-range volley to gift his opponent a third, which proved decisive when the Scot again netted.