A gallant final-set fightback proved in vain as Lleyton Hewitt squandered a two-set lead against 15th-seeded local Gilles Simon to bow out of the French Open.
The 32-year-old Australian threatened to pull off a remarkable opening-round victory after fighting back to 5-5 from 5-0 down in the fifth and deciding set.
But Simon finally found a way to close out a 3-6 1-6 6-4 6-1 7-5 win to set up a second-round clash with either fellow Frenchman Adrian Mannarino or Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas on Wednesday.
Hewitt has made no secret of the fact his main focus is on Wimbledon next month and while he acknowledged it was a good hit-out, it was a tough loss to take.
“I would have liked to have been on the other end of it,” Hewitt said.
“It’s disappointing but I didn’t come here with massive expectations and he’s a quality player as well.
“You fight for five sets to get the win and the draw opens up a little bit as well and you take a seed’s spot.
“That’s frustrating for any athlete or competitor. You want to be out there and get the win.”
Hewitt was troubled by toe blisters midway through the match, calling for treatment at the start of the final set, but he refused to blame the problem for his mid-match fadeout.
“It was uncomfortable but you can play through it,” he said.
“He obviously stepped up his game from the start of the third set.”
World No.86 Hewitt came into the match having never taken a set off Simon in three previous encounters, all on hard courts.
However he started strongly under overcast skies on Suzanne Lenglen Court and his determination was clear to see as he celebrated his first hold of serve with a customary first pump.
He produced some of his best tennis in some time over the next hour to race to a two-set lead.
Hewitt fought back from a break down in the third set but Simon took the ascendancy and it appeared he wasn’t going to look back.
Errors swamped Hewitt’s game as Simon steamrolled through the fourth, and then to within a game of victory in the fifth.
But rather than lie down Hewitt found something special, frustrating the Frenchman as he reeled off five straight games.
However Simon managed to halt Hewitt’s momentum, holding serve for 6-5, and then clinched the decisive break.
Earlier, James Duckworth became the first Australian casualty after a disappointing first-round loss to Slovenian Blaz Kavcic.
Duckworth lost to the same opponent in the second round of the Australian Open in January, in a marathon five-set match that lasted almost five hours.
It was a vastly different story at Roland Garros as Kavcic accounted for the Australian qualifier with ease in a 6-2 6-2 6-2 victory.
“I didn’t play very well at all,” Duckworth said.
“I played a lot better in the matches in qualifying, which is a bit disappointing.”
Marinko Matosevic was playing fourth seed David Ferrer later on Sunday.