A brutally honest Samantha Stosur confessed to a mental meltdown after suffering yet more Australian Open heartache at Melbourne Park.
In a dramatic and devastating collapse, Stosur capitulated from 5-2 up in the deciding set to crash out of the Open with a 6-4 1-6 7-5 loss to China’s former semi-finalist Zheng Jie yesterday.
The shattering defeat continued Stosur’s nightmare run at her home grand slam, the 2011 US Open champion having never progressed beyond the fourth round in 11 visits to Melbourne.
After battling back from a set down to seize control of the second-round contest, Stosur committed tennis suicide, ultimately falling on her sword with her ninth double fault after two hours and 42 tension-filled minutes.
‘‘At 5-2 up in the third, [with a] double break, probably is a bit of a choke, yeah,’’ Stosur said.
Stosur readily admitted to freezing under the weight of home pressure in her first-round loss last year to Sorana Cirstea, but felt she was managing her nerves better this summer.
Alas, the 28-year-old conceded her latest collapse was ‘‘100per cent’’ mental.
‘‘I got tight and then you start missing some balls,’’ she said.
‘‘You probably think a little bit too much. You do it over and over and over again and then you start not wanting to miss rather than wanting to make the winner.’’
Stosur said ‘‘crazy things’’ first started popping into her head when she failed to serve out the match on her first chance at 5-2.
From there, the 28-year-old was unable to recover as Zheng for the second time in a week fought back to defeat the Australian in three sets.
‘‘It’s a pretty hard one to take when you get yourself well and truly into a winning position,’’ Stosur said.
‘‘I was playing really quite well. Then all of a sudden you get to 5-2 and you lose five games straight.
‘‘I’ll do what I always do and keep playing and keep trying hard. I mean, I know I’m going to get over it. It’s just you want it now, not tomorrow.’’
Zheng, also a former Wimbledon semi-finalist, said Stosur was playing much better than in their Sydney clash last Monday.
But the world No40 knew she could beat Stosur if she stayed with her.
‘‘Her kick serve and the big forehand, also backhand slice gave me the big trouble,’’ Zheng said.
‘‘But today I try to play more aggressive. I try to go to the net, give her some pressure.
‘‘This is what my coaches tell me – give her some pressure – and this way is the key to win this match.’’
Despite reigning supreme in New York 16 months ago and reaching a French Open final and three semis in Paris, Stosur has faltered in the early rounds nine times in Melbourne.
Her exit completes Australia’s worst-ever showing in the women’s singles, with the world No 9 the only local to make the second round.
Bernard Tomic, who plays German qualifier Daniel Brands today for a likely shot at Roger Federer, and fellow 20-year-old James Duckworth, up against world No93 Blaz Kavcic, are the only Australians left after 16 started on Monday.
Russian powerhouse Maria Sharapova has made the most devastating start to a grand slam in 28 years.
The second seed stormed into the third round of the Australian Open, notching her second consecutive double bagel result.
She crushed Japan’s Misaki Doi 6-0 6-0 to send out a grim warning to her rivals.
The former champion won her first round match against compatriot Olga Puchkova by the same scoreline.
It is the first time a player has started a women’s grand slam without conceding a game in their first two matches since Australia’s Wendy Turnbull at the Australian Open in 1985.
Sharapova took just 47 minutes to complete her rout yesterday.
She never faced a game point or a break point from the Japanese, who was allowed just 15 points in total.
Sharapova said later she had to concentrate intensely even though she was cruising through the match.
‘‘I’ve been playing really aggressively and doing the right things,’’ she said.
‘‘But it’s always tough, especially when you’re up a set and a couple of breaks to keep that momentum.
‘‘I really forced myself to concentrate and just get the job done today.’’
She said she was never tempted to ease up the pressure, despite building a massive lead.
‘‘My focus is always on the next point and to try to win as many of them as possible.’’
Sharapova said the scoreline was irrelevant.
‘‘It’s not really the statistic I want to be known for. I want to be known for winning grand slam titles, not that I won two matches 6-0 6-0,’’ she said.
‘‘I’m just happy that I won the match and I get to go through and I’m in the next round.’’
Sharapova joined a group of seeds in the third round, led by in-form Pole Agnieszka Radwanska who defeated Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3 6-3.
Sixth seed Li Na overcame Belarusian Olga Govortsova 6-2 7-5 while fifth seeded German Angelique Kerber cruised past Czech Lucie Hradecka 6-3 6-1.
Slovak Dominika Cibulkova, seeded 15, was upset by Russian qualifier Valeria Savinykh 7-6 (8-6) 6-4.