Tennis: Kiwis struggle on opening day of men's ASB Classic, as Kiranpal Pannu, Artem Sitak, Ajeet Rai knocked out

It's been a forgettable day for the Kiwi contingent as the ASB Classic men's draw began, with three local hopefuls knocked out on Monday.

As the Auckland men's tournament also made its return for the first time in three years, following the success of a rain-hit women's draw last week, fans were treated to a full day's worth of play as the weather held over Stanley Street.

However, there was no fortune to be had for New Zealand's local players, with three defeats from three.

Kiranpal Pannu
Kiranpal Pannu Photo credit: Photosport

In the singles main draw, New Zealand's Kiranpal Pannu fell to a valiant defeat against France's Richard Gasquet, losing in straight sets.

Up against Gasquet - 10 years his senior - Pannu gave an impressive account of himself in his first taste of playing on centre court at his home tournament.

The 26-year-old took a 2-1 lead in the opening set, and had the home crowd on his side against the former Wimbledon semi-finalist.

But two breaks of serve gave Gasquet the first set 6-3, taking 42 minutes to move into the lead.

Another Gasquet break in the second set put Pannu 3-1 down, and another to go 5-1 down and let the Frenchman serve for the set.

And with 21 years worth of experience on the ATP Tour, Gasquet needed only one match point to wrap up the encounter, and end Kiwi singles hopes.

Earlier, Kiwi Ajeet Rai was knocked out in qualifying, falling short of reaching the main draw.

In an impressive start against Brazil's Thiago Monteiro, Rai claimed the first set 7-6 in a tiebreaker, but dropped the next two to be eliminated.

World No.71 Montiero came back to take the second set 6-3, and the third 6-4 to advance to the main draw in straight sets.

In the doubles, Artem Sitak and partner Alex Lawson were knocked out in their opener, falling to a straight sets loss in the round of 16.

Sitak and Lawson of the USA were beaten 7-6, 6-2 by the pair of doubles second seeds Horacio Zeballos of Argentina and Marcel Granollers of Spain.

Kiwi prospects will continue in the doubles on Tuesday, where fourth seeds Michael Venus and Jamie Murray of Great Britain will face American pair Jackson Withrow and Nathaniel Lammons.

Meanwhile, Rai backs up in the doubles alongside partner, compatriot Finn Reynolds, albeit in a tough ask against doubles top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia.