LONDON (Reuters) - Madison Keys said nerves had got the better of her against Russian qualifier Evgeniya Rodina as she became the latest title contender to fall at Wimbledon on Friday.
The American 10th seed was 5-2 ahead in the first set but collapsed to lose it and go 4-0 down in the second.
Even then she looked capable of salvaging a place in the last 16 as she battled back, only to bow out 7-5 5-7 6-4.
“Honestly, I think today was a massive mishandle of nerves,” the 23-year-old told reporters.
“I felt good, was up 5-2, and then I feel like I kind of felt my mind go away, and played a couple of sloppy games.
“All of a sudden it’s five all, and that’s when nerves hit me. Then it was just kind of dealing with that.”
With errors flying off her racket the 23-year-old seemed down and out when she trailed 0-4 in the second set.
But she saved four break points in that game and suddenly fired herself up to roar back with a stream of winners on a hot and humid Court Three.
Rodina, who needed treatment early in the decider, refused to crack, though, and broke the Keys serve at 4-4.
She slipped 15-30 behind as she tried to serve it out but Keys netted an easy volley. Rodina got to match point with a stunning forehand pass played almost on her knees.
Keys then netted a forehand, her 48th unforced error of the match, to hand the Russian victory.
The defeat of the U.S. Open runner-up meant she became the seventh casualty in the top 10 women’s seeds before the middle weekend.
Only two of the top eight survived to the third round — the lowest at Wimbledon in the professional era.
Keys, who has only reached one quarter-final at Wimbledon despite a powerful game, said she had made the mistake of allowing herself to think about a possible fourth-round clash with seven-times champion Serena Williams.
“I came in here the other day and it was like, ‘so if you win, then you play this person’. And I think that kept being in the back of my mind,” she said, referring to Williams.
“I don’t think I did a good job of keeping in the moment and playing the person who was in front of me.”
As Keys reflected on the defeat she said it showed just how mentally strong Williams was in coping with the added pressure of being favourite to win virtually every match she plays.
“It just gives even more props to her, honestly,” she said.
“It’s definitely been a challenge that I have had to deal with where all of a sudden I’m the one that’s supposed to win.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Fallon and Ed Osmond