Kiwis Michael Venus and Marcus Daniell will have an opportunity to fight for an Olympic medal on Friday, but it won't be gold or silver.
They will be hunting a bronze, after being steamrolled 6-2 6-2 in their men's doubles semifinal by the Croatian team of Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig.
The unseeded New Zealanders were well off their best, while the Europeans were irrepressible, completing the job in 75 minutes.
The Croatians managed double breaks in both sets but the Kiwis didn't force a break point opportunity until the final game of the match.
After an almost flawless quarter-final, Venus and Daniell couldn't reach the same levels. They were unable to find their range on serve – exacerbated by seven double faults – and struggled with the raw power of 2014 US Open singles champion Cilic in particular.
They never stopped trying, but the scratch Croatian pairing was too polished and precise, hitting lines at will, while the Kiwis looked hesitant and nervy.
The Croatians had only dropped one set on route to the last four and are an intimidating combination. The 1.96m Cilic has one of the biggest serves in the sport, delivering bombs that land at shoulder height. Dodig is ranked world No 12 in doubles, with multiple ATP Masters titles and two grand slam wins, including the 2021 Australian Open.
The enormity of their task was underlined in the first game, with Venus taken to deuce. He was under pressure after finding the strike zone of both Croatians, though found a way through, helped by a stunning half volley off a blistering Cilic return.
Dodig was quick to find his range, with some sumptuous angled winners, which had world No 20 Venus in trouble in his next service game. The 33-year-old fought back from 0-30, then defended a couple of break points – one with a superb ace – but gave up the third opportunity with a double fault.
Cilic was so confident in his service game he sometimes wasn't bothering to disguise the discussion with his partner, content to hammer and hope.
But the Kiwis were struggling on serve, after being so strong on Wednesday. They incurred five double faults in their first four service games, and the Croatians grabbed a second break on the Daniell serve for a 5-2 lead.
Cilic isn't a noted doubles player – but doesn't lack tennis IQ – while Dodig was the best on court, holding to love to seal the first set.
The portents weren't great, as the Kiwis couldn't find their mojo. They only landed 57 per cent of first serves in the opening set, with Croatia at 80 per cent.
There was early trouble in the second set, after a Cilic thunderbolt forced another break point.
Venus needed a big serve, but instead pushed it on his second to notch another double fault.
The harder the Kiwis tried to get back into the match, the worse it got; volleys slid wide, groundstrokes were mistimed, while the Croatians couldn't miss, roared on by a small but vocal contingent.
World No 51 Daniell was broken to love to make it 0-3, as errors began to compound.
Venus and Daniell both managed some tough holds, then pushed Dodig, as he faced two break points in the eighth game. But the 36-year-old defused them both with well-directed serves, before closing out their first match point.