India's challenge in the singles event of the season's first Grand Slam was over in just an hour and 28 minutes, as Sania Mirza went down to Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova in straight sets, in the first round of the Australian Open, in Melbourne, on Monday.
Back after recovering from a knee injury, Sania showed glimpses of a fightback against Pironkova, but it was not enough. The world No. 105 Indian was beaten 4-6, 2-6.
In the absence of Somdev Devverman, who was forced out of the tournament after an injury, Sania was country's only hope in singles.
The Indian put up a brave show in the first set but made 20 unforced errors, compared to 14 by the Bulgarian.
Sania started the second set on a positive note. After holding her first serve easily, she fought her way from 0-40 down to deuce on Pironkova's serve in the third game of the set. However, the Hyderabadi failed to earn a much-needed break.
However, she backed it with a fine service game to make it two-all in the second set.
The 25-year-old had a great chance to go ahead in the next game as she pounced on a loose second serve from Pironkova to gain a break-point, but squandered the advantage.
She once again conceded two break-points in the sixth game to help Pironkova tighten her grip over the match with the score reading 4-2 in favour of the 47th ranked Bulgarian.
Sania tried to stage a comeback in the next game, holding her opponent to deuce, but Pironkova won the seventh game of the set to make it 5-2.
From there on it was a tough task for the Indian ace and Pironkova relied on her powerful service game to shut the door.
Sania has only twice reached the second round of a major in the last two seasons, while Pironkova had reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2010 and quarter-finals last year although she struggled at other Grand Slams in the same period.