A profligate Rohan Bopanna squandered several opportunities and went down to second seed Igor Kunitsyn of Russia in the first round of the ONGC ATP Challenger tournament in Delhi on Tuesday.
Bopanna was on his way towards scripting an upset, but lost three match-points and handed the Russian a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 win at the DLTA courts.
The fall of the big-serving Bopanna marked the end of the Indian challenge in the singles of US $50,000 hard court event, as Harsh Mankad and Karan Rastogi had lost their opening round encounters earlier in the day.
Mankad went down 7-5, 6-2 to Alberto Francis of the United States while Rastogi found the going tough and lost 6-3, 6-3 to Wesley Moodie of South Africa.
Other Indian challengers Tushar Liberhan, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Sunil Kumar Sipaeya and Navdeep Singh were beaten on Monday.
Among others, Pakistan's Aisam-Ul Haq Qureshi, seeded sixth, had to toil for a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Ivan Sergeyev of Ukraine.
Bopanna did everything in his endeavour but tripped on the verge of victory.
After pocketing the first set and leading 5-4 in the second, the Davis Cupper lost three match-points in the next game on his own serve.
Bopanna fought back in the next game and replied as he knows best with his booming serves to snatch three break-points in the 11th game, but frittered away all of them to witness his own peril.
A rejuvenated Igor banked on the opportunity to make a comeback while Bopanna looked out of sorts in the decider.
Earlier, the first set saw Bopanna in cruise control mode. He served big and rushed to the net often to destabilize Igor. Whenever he found himself in a soup, he relied on his power-packed serves to get out of the trouble.
The Indian broke Igor in the blemish-free eighth game and pocketed the set in style.
In the second set, Bopanna broke Igor in the third game and looked in command to grab the match. But the twist in the tale unfolded quite late in a dramatic manner.
With the prospect of defeat almost certain, Igor woke up from a deep slumber and did the unthinkable. The 10th game of the second set was fought tooth and nail. With 40-30 up, Bopanna lost one and then gave away the advantage twice.
The Indian was again up 0-40 in the next game but Igor came back to take it away.
After levelling 1-1, Igor looked a different player. Getting a new lease of life, the energetic Russian returned well, slapped the ball hard and covered the court with ease to steal the show.
With the score reading 4-3 in the decider, Igor broke Bopanna in the next game and then held his serve to move to the next round.
"He is a big server. I knew that I would have to return well to win against him. He had his chances in the second set. But then I returned well in the third," Igor said about Bopanna.