There was plenty of trademark sweat, but no farewell tears as Lleyton Hewitt’s bid to land an elusive Hopman Cup crown crash landed.
Hewitt needed to win his singles match in straight sets against Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov on Thursday to keep Australia Gold’s title hopes alive.
But after going a set and a break up, Hewitt faded on the way to a 4-6 6-3 6-4 defeat.
It followed on from Jarmila Wolfe’s 6-3 6-3 loss to Elina Svitolina in the women’s singles rubber.
Ukraine lost the mixed doubles 3-6 7-5 10-5 (match tiebreak), but the 2-1 tie win was enough to propel them into Saturday’s final.
And it also marked the end of Hewitt’s representative career as a player.
Hewitt was making his eighth appearance at the Hopman Cup, but once again he will leave empty-handed.
Unlike all of his previous exits, there will be no further chance to atone in the future.
The 34-year-old will retire after this month’s Australian Open, bringing an end to one of the most decorated careers in Australian tennis.
But first, Hewitt will front up for the Fast4 teams event in Sydney, which also features Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios.
Hewitt will then head to Adelaide for the World Tennis Challenge in his final event before the Australian Open.
The two-time grand slam champion said he wasn’t overcome by emotions on Thursday despite the Hopman Cup being the final time he’ll play for Australia in a teams event.
“The big picture is obviously the Australian Open,” Hewitt said.
“That’s where I want to be playing my best tennis, and this week has been the perfect preparation for that.
“I still feel like I can match it with the best guys in the world out there.”
Hewitt’s greatest chance of landing the Hopman Cup title – in 2002 – was thwarted when he contracted chicken pox.
He was also a losing finalist in 2003 when beaten 3-0 by American duo James Blake and Serena Williams.
In Group B, Australia Green’s team of Nick Kyrgios and Daria Gavrilova are in the box seat to progress to Saturday’s final after winning their opening two ties against Germany and Great Britain.
A win over France on Friday will secure their spot, but even a loss might get them through, depending on other results.
Australia’s only Hopman Cup title came back in 1999, when Mark Philippoussis and Jelena Dokic took out the crown, beating Swedish pair Jonas Bjorkman and Asa Carlsson in the final.
Hewitt beat world No.26 Jack Sock 7-5 6-4 on Tuesday night, showing he can still match it with top-30 players.
He hasn’t set out any public goals for what he wants to achieve at the Australian Open.
But he has vowed to give it his all in his final month on the professional tour.