India's Prarthana Thombare came tantalisingly close to registering an upset victory in her debut match on the WTA tour before losing 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 against Chang Liu of China in the opening round of Indian Open Challenger tournament in Pune.
The 18-year-old world number 956, who was given a wild card in the tournament, matched her opponent, ranked 574 places above her, stroke for stroke through the two and half hour encounter. But the lack of experience saw her exit in the $ 125,000 tournament.
The junior national champion began on a promising note as she attacked her opponent's serve to take the first game of the match. However, Liu returned the favour immediately.
Both the players barely managed to hold their serves and Prarthana grabbed the initiative when she claimed the seventh and ninth game off Liu's serve to pocket the first set.
Prathrana looked to go for the kill in the second set and paid the price for the change in tactics as she lost the set in no time and set the stage for an enthralling decider.
With the Shiv Chattrapati Sports Complex courts slightly on the slower side, both players resorted to a strategy of counter punching the opponents serve and it became difficult for both of them to hold on to the advantage.
Liu was the first to get off the block, breaking Prarthana in the first game. The duo traded breaks till to stay even at 3-3 before the Chinese made the most of her experience to force Prarthana into committing a slew of errors and pocket the match.
"It was a great experience to play in this tournament and I thank the promotors Netsurf and MSLTA for giving me the opportunity," said Prarthana after the match.
"The slowness of the court and some errors on my part cost me crucial two points. And she simply raised the game in the last few games," Prarthana added.
In other matches, 2009 Junior Wimbledon champion Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand overcame a spirited challenge from Israel's Julia Glushko 6-3, 7-5 to advance to the second round.