British number one Andy Murray made a sorry exit at the Madrid Open, beaten 6-4 6-2 in round three by Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci, the world number 36.
In the first meeting between the two players Murray, seeded four, spurned three early break point opportunities.
Stylish left-hander Bellucci, 23, grew in confidence as Murray wilted, and sealed victory in one hour 31 minutes.
Murray now heads to next week's Rome Masters and said: "I'm happy that physically I progressed."
The Scot was pleased to return to competitive action following an elbow injury that sidelined him for two weeks and he said: "I've got to look more at the week as a whole, I was coming back from an injury that wasn't serious but an elbow injury isn't easy for tennis players.
"I was hitting the ball decent, I think I can definitely get better. You just need to be quite cautious and not do too much too soon because then you take a step back, but I think I've judged it pretty well.
"I need to get my tennis back because that's the most important thing going into Rome and the French Open."
After losing in the final of the Australian Open to Novak Djokovic in January, Murray was beaten by qualifiers in his opening matches in his next two tournaments but reached the semi-final of the Monte Carlo Masters in April before he was beaten on the clay by world number one Rafael Nadal.
Having recovered from his elbow problem the 23-year-old had looked to this tournament to provide further preparation for the clay surface at the French Open, beginning on 22 May, where he has never progressed beyond the quarter-finals.
Murray had two opportunities to take an early grip on the contest in Bellucci's second service game but was unable to take them.
A 20-shot rally led to another break point chance in the fifth game but once again Murray could not find a way through and his frustration was evident, certainly to referee Fergus Murphy, who administered a warning.
Bellucci's powerful groundstrokes were more than a match for Murray, whose last actions of a 51-minute first set were to send a shot long and then hit a backhand tamely wide.
With Bellucci continuing to dominate the centre of the court with his surging forehand, Murray's chances receded rapidly.
The Brazilian was also fearless with his returns and a tired-looking backhand wide of the mark from Murray handed Bellucci a break point in the sixth game.
A Murray forehand looped long and any suggestion that Bellucci might buckle under the pressure of trying to close out the match was swiftly dismissed by a pulsating ace that took him 5-2 ahead and his victory was complete when Murray surrendered serve again.
In the last eight Bellucci will play seventh seed Tomas Berdych, who beat Juan Monaco of Argentina 7-5 6-3.