SOWETO - Ruan Roelofse put up a brave challenge in the opening round of the Soweto Open on Tuesday, but it was not enough as he ultimately went down 7-6 (4), 3-6, 4-6 to second-seeded American Rajeev Ram.
The South African Davis Cup player, ranked 502nd by the ATP, dug deep to force the first set to a tie-break and take the early lead against the world number 111.
Ram, however, fought back to clinch a spot in the second round of the ATP Challenger Tour event.
“It was tough playing the second seed in the first round,” Roelofse said.
“I played a good match, a good first set, played the big points really well in the beginning, but in the end it was two bad service games from my part that made the difference.
“I lost concentration a bit in the second set and that gave him a chance, and a player like that will take advantage of the one mistake you make.”
Roelofse was part of the SA Davis Cup team that went down 3-1 to Poland earlier this month and the 23-year-old said he took a lot from that experience.
“Being part of the Davis Cup team helped me tremendously because I played Jerzy Janowicz, a number 24 ranked player, if I'm not mistaken,” he said.
“I also played other top-ranked players and took sets with them as well, which means I can play with the top 100 ranked players in the world.
"That's helped me a lot and gave me confidence going into this match.”
In other first-round matches, Brazilian Andre Ghem edged out South African Keith-Patrick Crowley, winning the match 6-4, 7-5, while Michal Konecny beat Gregoire Burquier in three sets to win 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
Top seed Lukas Lacko of Slovakia booked a second-round clash against Konecny after defeating Ricardo Hocevar 6-4, 6-2.