Novak Djokovic won his 26th successive match in China at the Shanghai Masters Wednesday, but it was misery for Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka, who crashed out despite leading his final set 3-0.
The Serbian world number one opened his campaign for a third Shanghai title with ease, claiming a 6-3, 6-4 victory against Austrian Dominic Thiem, the youngest player in the top 50.
The top seed in Shanghai broke his 21-year-old opponent in his final service game in the first set, and then again early in the second.
Thiem, who is ranked 39th, then forced two break points in Djokovic's next two service games, but failed to capitalise, leaving his opponent to close in on victory in one hour 28 minutes.
Djokovic has been in scintillating form this year, putting some distance between himself and world number two Rafael Nadal in the ATP rankings.
He won his fifth China Open title last Sunday, beating Czech Tomas Berdych 6-0, 6-2 in what he described as his greatest ever final.
But it was agony for Wawrinka in Shanghai, as he crashed out of his second successive tournament at the first stage.
The fourth seed was in need of a morale-boosting victory after his last outing resulted in a first round exit at the Japan Open to 103-ranked Tatsuma Ito.
The world number four started brightly in Shanghai, taking the first set in his tightly-fought battle with Gilles Simon of France.
But his 29th ranked opponent fought back aggressively to stay in the match and force a decider.
The Swiss 29-year-old broke serve at his first attempt in the final set with a ferocious smash shot.
He then appeared to be cruising, pounding his chest with his fist as he entered the third game, which he won after saving two break points.
Simon, a former world number six, broke back at his next attempt and then forced his way to 3-3 in a marathon 10-minute game.
Wawrinka appeared to buckle under pressure three games later, meekly surrendering his serve without scoring a point before Simon marched to a 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 victory.
The results in Tokyo and Shanghai could undermine Wawrinka's bid to confirm his place at the end of season ATP World Tour Finals, which involves the world's top eight players.
He is in fourth position in the Race to London but is desperately chasing points as he vies to hold off a closing pack who are all competing in Shanghai.
Only five berths remain for the London tournament, as Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer have already qualified.
"Two first rounds. It's never easy, for sure," Wawrinka said.
"Two weeks. Didn't win matches. But you have to accept that and see what was the problem.
"I need to accept, go back home, try to focus on the rest of the year because there is so many to play, so many big challenges for me, that I want to be fresh and ready mentally for that."
The fifth seed in Shanghai, David Ferrer, also faced a tough battle in his opening match, but finally overcame Slovak Martin Klizan 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
Klizan dumped Rafael Nadal out of the China Open at the quarter final stage last week, but could not repeat his heroics against his Spanish opponent at the Masters 1000 event.
Ferrer will play Andy Murray in the next round, after the British 11th seed won his match against Pole Jerzy Janowicz 7-5, 6-2.
Meanwhile, seventh seed Kei Nishikori and 10th seed Grigor Dimitrov both crashed out in their opening matches.
The Japanese star looked injured during the closing stages of his 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 defeat to American Jack Sock, and received treatment with the scores at 4-3 in his opponent's favour.
The US Open finalist won his next service game, but appeared slightly in pain as he lost the next two, which ended his participation in the tournament.
Bulgaria Dimitrov was dumped out by Julien Benneteau of France 7-5, 6-3.
The ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event concludes in Shanghai Sunday.