Johanna Konta refused to blame the flat atmosphere on Centre Court for her tame exit from Wimbledon.
The British No 1, a semi-finalist last year, crashed out in the second round to Dominika Cibulkova in front of thousands of empty seats at her home grand slam.
Wimbledon’s showpiece court was almost empty when Konta and Cibulkova began, as spectators had left for refreshments following Rafael Nadal’s match.
Only when Konta was a set and a break down did the stands begin to fill but the crowd could not inspire a comeback as she bowed out 6-3, 6-4. Konta said: “At the end of the match it was quite full. I think the crowd also need a break, need to have some food, especially after a men’s match. I’m sure they were hungry. Some needed to go to the toilet.
“I think they can be forgiven for not staying there all the way through. I felt a lot of support. I didn’t really pay too much attention to that.”
It was a tough second-round draw for Konta as the decision to make Serena Williams a seed backfired against a home player.
Slovakian Cibulkova would have been seeded 32nd, and therefore not in Konta’s sights just yet, but was bumped off the list to accommodate world No 181 Williams’ promotion after her time on maternity leave.
Former British No 1 and BBC summariser Sam Smith felt Cibulkova was fired up as a result, saying: “I think the Wimbledon committee have done her a favour. That is the best I have seen her play all year.”
Konta added: “I haven’t watched many matches of hers in this past year. All I can say is that is the best she’s played against me. I came up against kind of a perfect storm from her today.”
Konta’s form has nosedived to the point where she is now in danger of dropping out of the world’s top 50, having been ranked fourth last year. At present, she will not be seeded at forthcoming grand slams.
But after a host of early shock results, she said: “I think this Wimbledon is another demonstration of how seeding is not the be-all and end-all. The depth we have in the women’s game, how players can play very well in any certain match, I am not terribly worried of losing a number next to my name. This year I actually feel like I’m heading in the direction I want to be heading in. I think I’m improving… sooner or later those results will come.”