New Jersey teenager Christina McHale was up 5-0 in the third set of Monday's match against Italy's Sara Errani, just one game away from advancing to the second round of the French Open. She had never lost a 5-0 lead in a decisive set before in her life, not even in the junior ranks. And then, she panicked.
"I started rushing when she won a couple of games and I felt like it was slipping away and I couldn't stop it," McHale told reporters after the match.
The 5-0 lead evaporated into a 5-5 tie and eventually a 7-9 loss. It was an encouraging sign that the teenager, who recently celebrated her 19th birthday, was able to hold serve twice after blowing the 5-0 lead, but it wasn't enough.
"I just panicked and didn't take my time," she said later. "I was feeling something in my leg and I wanted to close it out quickly and I stopped thinking and I was just trying to end it."
McHale entered Roland Garros with a career-high ranking of No. 79. A win could have moved her into the top 70 and would have been her second Grand Slam match victory.
"I'm not stunned because I know anything can happen in tennis," she said. "I'm upset and disappointed in myself. [...] It feels awful now, but hopefully in a couple of days I'll be able to take something from this so it won't happen again."
She wasn't the only American to have a meltdown on Monday. Fellow teenager Coco Vandeweghe was in a first-set tiebreak with No. 25 seed Maria Kirilenko when she thought she hit a volley that would have tied the breaker at 6-6. The umpire correctly ruled that the ball hit Vandeweghe's racquet twice, she unsuccessfully argued, lost the set and barely showed up in a 6-2 final-set loss.