London - When asked if Wednesday's loss at Wimbledon was the biggest disappointment of her tennis life, Daniela Hantuchova answered without speaking.
Her face flushed, and she bit her lower lip. In other words: Yes.
The ninth-seeded Slovakian squandered a fast start, blew a 5-2 lead in the final set, failed to convert three match points and lost to Shinobu Asagoe, 0-6, 6-4, 12-10.
"This tournament means a lot to me, and I really wanted to do well," Hantuchova said.
After her third-set lead slipped away, Hantuchova often appeared to be fighting back tears between points and during changeovers. She had two match points serving at 5-3 and another at 5-4, and she also had leads of 7-6, 9-8 and 10-9.
"I just didn't take my chances," she said.
Hantuchova was touted as a rising star while reaching the quarterfinals of three consecutive Grand Slam events, including Wimbledon last year. But her past two major tournaments have ended with marathon second-round defeats.
At the French Open, Hantuchova rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the third set and served for the match at 6-5 but lost to American Ashley Harkleroad, 7-6 (2), 4-6, 9-7 in 3 hours, 8 minutes.
This time Hantuchova played for 2:47.
"It's very disappointing to have two in a row like this," she said.
Hantuchova's slender physique has raised questions about her diet and fitness, but she has said repeatedly that her health is fine.
And she said stamina wasn't a factor in her latest defeat.
"Physically I felt I could have gone for another two hours," she said. "It's just the mental side I have to work hard on at the moment. I've been in this situation a couple of times before and didn't handle it very well. I just didn't make the right choice at the right time."
Hantuchova won the first seven games, but she seemed reluctant to come to the net, and the drop shots that worked for her in the early going began to backfire.
"I was hitting the ball great," she said, "and suddenly it turned around."
Asagoe, ranked 81st, matched her best Grand Slam showing with the victory. She has reached the third round at only one other major event -the 2000 US Open. - Sapa-AP