Maria Sharapova’s Wimbledon return ended in a defeat inflicted from the brink of victory as she crashed out against fellow Russian Vitalia Diatchenko.
The 31-year-old was making her first appearance at the All England Club in three years having served a doping ban and then withdrawn from qualifying through injury 12 months ago.
It was also her first appearance on grass in that time, having pulled out of competing in Birmingham last month.
The 2004 champion was, at a set and 5-2 up, serving for the match and looking set for a smooth passage into round two.
But a tense Sharapova allowed Diatchenko to break back, and the world number 132 took the ensuing tie-break before prevailing in the third to win 6-7 (3/7) 7-6 (7/3) 6-4.
“I think it’s normal to feel moments of tension, that’s part of the game, to feel there’s something on the line,” said Sharapova.
“That’s just human. No matter how many times you’ve done it, no matter what court you’re playing on; Centre Court, back court, just the moment, the crowd, Wimbledon, another tournament, you always want to do your best.
“Of course you feel it. But I love that feeling. That’s one of the reasons I play. Maybe I wasn’t smart enough, I didn’t play the right way in the crucial moments.”
After Sharapova secured a break of serve in the first set, Diatchenko needed a medical time-out for what appeared to be a hip injury.
Yet she did not seem in too much discomfort as she promptly broke straight back for 4-4.
Sharapova was too strong in the tie-break and converted the first of three set points with an ace.
A solitary break at the start of the second looked like proving decisive until Sharapova was pegged back again, and this time Diatchenko made it count.
Again Sharapova broke early in the decider, and again Diatchenko hit straight back. Then, serving to stay in the match, Sharapova bowed out limply with a 10th double fault on match point sealing her fate.
“I think it’s always tough to kind of assess that motivation after a first-round loss,” added Sharapova.
“There’s no doubt that I will - I don’t shy away from mistakes and errors, looking back at film, learning from what went wrong. It’s not always pleasant moments, but sometimes those are the ones you need to get better.”