Kyle Edmund's first outing of the new season ended in defeat at the Qatar Open.
The British number three took the first set against Serbia's Filip Krajinovic but bowed out 4-6 6-3 6-3.
Edmund endured a disappointing 2019 and his slide down the rankings to 69 in the world saw him miss out on selection for Great Britain's ATP Cup team.
Yet his fine showing at the Davis Cup last month, and the appointment of new coach Franco Davin, were reasons for optimism heading into the new year.
The 24-year-old secured an early break to race into a 3-0 lead in the first set, but was pegged back at 4-4 and had to save two more break points before going on to break once more and take the opener.
However, a solitary Krajinovic break drew him level and, although both players dropped serve in the decider, the sixth seed secured the crucial one at 5-3 and served out the match.