Sania Mirza wasted four match-points as she went down in a thrilling second round contest to Spain's Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez at Wimbledon on Thursday.
The 21-year-old Indian, after staging a remarkable fightback in the second set, lost 0-6, 6-4, 7-9 to world number 101 Sanchez after two hours and eight minutes.
Sania's only chance in the opening set was in the second game, when she held three break-points. But after that it was a freefall for the Indian.
The left-handed Martinez Sanchez played an almost perfect net game, moving it on almost every shot and forcing the Indian to pass her. Not only did she anticipate and cover the forecourt well, the Spanish girl used the touch shots with great effect and needed only 20 minutes to win the first set.
Statistics tell part of the story -- serving at a low 50 percent, Sania won only one point off her first serve. The Indian had one winner to eight from her opponent.
For the first set and early part of the second, Sania looked powerless against Martina Sanchez, losing 12 straight points.
The Spaniard, who had beaten Martina Muller 6-1, 6-1 in the first round, looked ready to roll over the 32nd seed as she took a 2-0 lead.
But once Sania held serve for the first time in the match, for 2-1, she grew in confidence with every point. She turned the tide in her favour when got the first break in the sixth game, with a forehand pass.
Once Sania's groundstrokes, especially her returns, found the range, her opponent looked vulnerable; the net approaches foolhardy. Though Martinez Sanchez came back from 0-40 down in the crucial 10th game, Sania finally pocketed the second set 6-4 with an offensive lob.
The sun was smiling on Court No.11 and so were the many Sania supporters in the crowd.
The Indian had come through a lost cause and, with momentum her way, looked ready to step on the offensive.
Sania took the lead, going 3-1 up, but Martinez Sanchez came back from a break down twice to level the set 4-4.
Though Sania continued to apply pressure on the Spaniard's serve, earning a match-point in the 10th game, Martinez Sanchez, in only her third singles outing at Wimbledon, continued to battle back.
She saved four match-points in the final set, breaking for a 8-7 lead with an audacious drop shot on the return and followed it up with a strong service game to close out the match, 9-7 in the third.