TRYING to bridge a ranking gap which was sometimes almost 500 places proved too much for most British men on the opening day of the $137,560 Ilkley Trophy ATP Challenger tournament.

However, former semi-finalist Brydan Klein, who didn’t face such a big ranking deficit, was the exception that proved the rule, recovering from a heart-breaking first set defeat to beat Russian Yevgeny Karlovskiy in one of only two qualifying matches.

Klein probably felt that the world was against him when he lost the initial set, feeling that a blistering forehand onto the baseline was good when it was called long.

But the 29-year-old world No 355 put that behind him to triumph 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 against the second seed to reach the first-round proper.

Karlovskiy, who is world ranked 211, was not disappointed for long, however, as he made the main draw as a lucky loser as top seed Jordan Thompson (Australia) pulled out.

Top seed Viktor Galovic (Croatia) won the other qualifier, defeating another British wild card in Andrew Watson 6-4, 6-4.

And there was hardship in the first-round proper for another home-based player in Ryan Peniston.

The 23-year-old from Southend-on-Sea was the better player for two-thirds of the first set, only to lose it 7-5 to experienced Ilkley regular Bjorn Fratangelo.

The American also took the second set 6-4 but Peniston was not too downcast.

He said: “I took confidence from reaching the last 16 at the Nature Valley Open at Nottingham, which were my first wins at challenger level and I felt that I more than matched Bjorn in the first set.

“However, it was an uphill task after I dropped serve in the first set and even more of an uphill task when I dropped serve in the second set, but in general my graph is going upwards.”

There was no joy either for Britons in the qualifying for the $100,000 ITF Women’s Futures tournament, which is running alongside the men’s event.

Young Holly Fischer was beaten 6-4, 6-2 by 12th seed Martina di Guiseppe (Italy), while Amelia Rajecki could only gather one game from 10th seed Katarina Zavatska (Ukraine).