Ian Thorpe has once again missed out on the final of a 100m freestyle event after finishing 12th fastest in the heats of the World Cup meet in Tokyo.
The five-time Olympic champion missed the final of the 100m freestyle in Beijing five days ago and, despite improving by 0.76 of a second, was unable to force his way into the top eight times.
Australian head coach Leigh Nugent said the 49.45s time could still be seen as positive in Thorpe's comeback, highlighting his ability to improve quickly.
"He dropped nearly a second in his final 50m from Beijing," Nugent said.
"The time drop was a significant leap for Ian and that swim shows the sort of improvements that he can make."
Thorpe then withdrew from the heats for the 100m individual medley but it was a good start to the final FINA World Cup event for Christian Sprenger.
The breaststroker, already a winner in Singapore and Beijing, will be looking for a hat-trick of 50m titles after qualifying second fastest for Saturday's final.
Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima and team-mate Brenton Rickard are both in the final as well as fastest qualifier, Japan's Yuuki Okajima.
Sprenger clocked 27.06s in the heats to finish just 0.03 of a second behind Okajima.
Sprenger will have to contend with fellow Aussie Rickard who was fourth fastest in 27.24s and a host of Japanese breaststrokers including Kitajima (27.33).
"I was pretty happy with that 27 low and am looking forward to giving the Australian record (26.60) a nudge tonight in the finals," he said.
Elsewhere, Kyle Richardson qualified second fastest for the 100m freestyle with Andrew Lauterstein also making the final in sixth spot.
Libby Trickett qualified fourth-fastest for the women's 100m butterfly while Trickett is one of five Australians qualified for the 50m freestyle with Cate Campbell and Olivia Halicek the quickest qualifiers.
Blair Evans is one swim away from a hat-trick of titles in the women's 200m freestyle having qualified second fastest for the final in 1:56.66.