ESTORIL, Portugal, April 8 (UPI) -- Australian Open finalist Rainer Schuettler was bounced out in the first round of the Estoril Open, absorbing a defeat Monday from clay specialist Feliciano Lopez of Spain, 6-1, 4-6, 7-5.
With Monday's opening exit of top seed Jiri Novak, Schuettler -- second in the Champions points race with 103 points behind Andre Agassi -- had been expected to challenge for the title at the Estadio Nacional.
But that hope was trampled in the red dust of a sunny spring day.
"My clay game is about as good as my golf game right now -- and that's not very good," joked the 26-year-old, referring to his outing to Quinta da Marinha Golf Course on Monday when he hit a reporter with a mis-hit golf ball. "I trained last week on clay at the River Oaks Country Club in Houston -- but it looks like it didn't help much."
Schuettler, who played a clay final last year in Munich against Younes El Aynaoui, has done his best recent work on hard court and boasts an 18-8 record this season. He felt he let his late chances get away against the 21-year-old Lopez.
"He had a good serve and I wasn't able to break in at 4-all with him down 0-40 on serve," Schuettler said. "If you can't break then, you don't deserve to win the match."
Finland's Jarkko Nieminen, last year's finalist and the eighth seed, had to struggle to overcome Portuguese wild card Helder Lopes 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.
The 25-year-old local player has lived on the fringes of the game, with only $10,000 in career prize money. Nienimen had to hunt down information on the near-unknown foe.
"I didn't know what to expect from him," he said. "I asked around, but now one else had heard much about him either."
Nieminen was playing on clay for the first time since last summer. After being drilled in the first set, he methodically imposed his superior game on his opponent to move into a second-round match against Argentine Agustin Callieri.
Nieminen had competed last weekend in Finland's Davis Cup loss to Austria, in the alpine resort of St. Anton.
"I came straight here and was only able to train for an hour on Monday," he said. "But even after I lost the first, I thought I had a chance to win the match."
In women's play, two days after winning Casablanca, fourth seed Rita Grande had to quit with an injured left adductor muscle after losing her first set against Swiss Emmanuelle Gagliardi, 6-3. The Italian had won her last five matches.
Joining in the early exit was Italian Antonella Serra Zanetti, the Casablanca finalist, who lost to Spain's Anabel Medina Garrigues, 6-1, 5-7, 6-3.
Defending champion Magui Serna got through her first test, routing Elena Tatarkova of Ukraine 6-3, 6-1.
Other winners included Argentina's Gislea Dulko, Czech Sandra Kleinova and Ludmila Cervanova of Slovakia.