Dan Evans and James Ward both suffered five-set defeats as Russia opened a 2-0 lead over Great Britain in their Davis Cup Europe/Africa Zone Group I tie at Coventry's Ricoh Arena.
World number 325 and British number six Evans was a late inclusion in GB skipper Leon Smith's team at the expense of Jamie Baker and faced a difficult task against Dimitry Tursunov, who has won seven ATP Tour titles and is ranked 258 places higher.
Smith's decision was influenced by Evans' performances in the competition last year, particularly against Slovakia in February, when he beat two players ranked a lot higher than himself to win the tie for Britain.
And Evans produced another impressive display but this time it was not quite enough as Tursunov prevailed 6-4 6-7 (5/7) 6-4 5-7 6-4 after three hours and 56 minutes.
British number two James Ward, the world number 214, wasted a two-set advantage in Friday's second singles rubber against world number 80 Evgeny Donskoy.
Ward eventually went down 4-6 4-6 7-5 6-3 8-6 in three hours and 45 minutes to leave Britain in a deep hole heading into day two when Colin Fleming and Jonny Marray are likely to line up in the doubles against Victor Baluda and Igor Kunitsyn.
Britain's top-ranked player Andy Murray, the world number two, made himself unavailable for the fixture, which decides who goes through to the World Group play-offs in September.