Tennis remains a foreigner's sport. The Indians at the Chennai Open tried to counter it by packing in the numbers, but their challenge was cut down to size on the first day itself.
Out of the 13 Indians on show at the first round of qualifying, only three made it through to the second. One of them, Rupesh Roy advanced at the expense of fellow Indian Vignesh Peranamallur 6-4, 7-6 (6).
The Indian answer fell flat as two of their strongest contenders on paper, Sanam Singh and Karan Rastogi, were wiped out in straight sets.
Rastogi lost ground to an aggressive Rajeev Ram, an American of Indian descent, going down 7-6 (4), 6-3. Though Rastogi was a break up in the first set and took an early lead in the tie-break, Ram, ranked about 200 places above him, refused to surrender, chipping and charging in to outpace the Indian, who preferred to hang back behind the baseline.
Sanam, meanwhile, was presented with a mountain of a challenge, literally. At 5'8", Sanam must face a bigger opponent across the net all the time. But the sheer size of Croatia's Franco Skugor made the contest look ridiculous. Skugor stands 6'4" tall and he put every ounce of his 200-something pounds behind his shots. The Indian was like a terrier snapping at Skugor's heels but could not really sink his teeth in, as he was dismissed 6-1, 6-2 in an hour and 10 minutes.
Amidst the capitulation, former national champion Vishnu Vardhan provided a reassuring spark, as he fought back from two match points down in the second set to beat third seed Conor Niland (Ireland) 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.
The only other Indian with a win over an overseas opponent was Karunuday Singh, who beat Germany's Andreas Gremelmayr 6-2, 6-2. Vardhan next faces Croatia's Ante Pavic, while Karunuday takes on top seed Go Soeda of Japan in the second round on Saturday.