New Zealand's involvement in the Heineken Open singles came to an end on the first day of the tournament today, after Michael Venus crashed out in straight sets.
Venus, the New Zealand No 1, was awarded a wildcard into the main draw but departed with hardly a whimper at Stanley St tonight, losing 6-4 6-3 to Colombian Santiago Giraldo.
Giraldo, the world No 51, proved far too strong for Venus, ranked 378 in the world, breaking him once in the first set and twice in the second to cruise into the second round.
The result capped off a bad day for Kiwis on centre court, after New Zealand No 3 Artem Sitak fell at the final hurdle of qualifying, going down 6-1 6-0 to Frenchman Adrian Mannarino this afternoon.
New Zealand still has two players in the doubles, where Venus will team up with Dan King-Turner and Sitak will partner Rubin Statham.
Earlier, the first match of the Heineken Open saw the demise of seventh seed Donald Young of the USA, after he was beaten in three sets by Alejandro Falla from Colombia.
Young, a 22-year-old from Chicago, was one of the most improved players on the ATP Tour last year, moving from 128th to 39th in the world, but he was beaten today by 28-year-old Falla, ranked 74th, 4-6 6-3 6-3.
"It's pretty disappointing," Young said. "It's not nice to lose your first match of the year."
Young turned pro in 2004 and joined the tour full-time from 2007. The youngest player to win a junior grand slam, he was picked for greatness by John McEnroe after a hit-out as a 10-year-old.
Tournament sixth seed Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil avoided the fate of his fellow seed, reaching the second round with a straight sets win over Portuguese Rui Machado.
Bellucci experienced a relatively comfortable afternoon, taking the first set 6-3 before taking the second in a tie-break.
Earlier New Zealand hopes in the tournament suffered a blow after Russian-born Kiwi Artem Sitek lost the final round of qualifying to Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-1 6-0.
Sitak began the match well, comfortably holding his own serve and failing to capitalise on three break points, but could not win another game.
Sitak, ranked 433 in the world, was always going to find it tough against Mannarino, ranked 87th, but his form going into today's match had given him confidence.
The 25-year-old had beaten Denis Kudla of the USA and Slovak Dominik Hrbaty in the first two rounds of qualifying.
"Coming into the match I was confident and relaxed," Sitek said. "It was one of those days where I felt nothing went my way. He obviously played really good. I never managed to keep it going long enough and just started losing confidence throughout the match. I tried to fight through but it just didn't work. Obviously there are a lot of things to learn from this match."
- APNZBy Kris Shannon