By Micil Glennon
Dubliner James McGee fell at the first hurdle in the ATP 500 event in Dubai, losing 2-0 (6-1, 6-2) to Portugal’s Joao Sousa, ranked 50 in the world.
The Irish number one, who usually features on the Challenger and Futures tours, was a wildcard entry to the event, whose current title holder is Roger Federer.
McGee, ranked No 210 in the world, was second best for the 65- minute duration against the Portuguese, who has a career-high ranking of 35.
Both players held their opening serves, but Sousa’s superior power saw him break McGee twice and run out a 6-1 winner in the first set.
The 27-year-old Irishman, who recorded 41 unforced errors, managed to break back and hold a serve of his own early in the second, but the Barcelona-based Sousa held his nerve and saw out the set 6-2.
A tantalising tie with either Andy Murray or Gilles Muller awaited the winner, but McGee still takes home a cheque for $15,000.
Speaking after the match, McGee admitted that the loss was a learning experience.
“It was quite tough,” said McGee, who became only the third Irishman to play on the ATP tour (main events) since 1990.
“I think Joao played well, he definitely dealt with the conditions much better than I did. I think it was a good example of where experience matters.
“He did everything quite well, didn’t make a lot of unforced errors and on the other hand I made quite a few unforced errors. I sort of rushed things a little bit, didn’t really loosen up and play the type of tennis that I know I’m capable of.
“There were times throughout the match when it sort of came together and it was enjoyable to do that but I wasn’t able to keep the momentum up.
“I’m just going to try and take as many positives out of it and learn from the experience.”