Harsh realities hit home for Harkleroad
Emerging talent Ashley Harkleroad got so giddy at the prospect of US Open success on Wednesday it proved nothing more than an hallucination.
The 18-year-old darling of the American media took one hour, 27 minutes to level her second round match with Russian 13th seed Vera Zvonareva at one set all.
Then 24 minutes and seven games later, Harkleroad was trying to come to terms with a 6-3 4-6 6-1 defeat.
"I worked so hard in that second set and got too excited when I won it," said the American world number 52, who won just 16 points in the third set.
"I had a chance and then, suddenly, it was gone.
"After the excitement, there was the let down. But I guess I'm on a learning curve this year and that was part of it."
Helping her chart an even course through the peaks and troughs of her breakthrough year is Tracy Austin, the former American professional who acts as Harkleroad's mentor.
The mentor scheme was introduced by the governing body of women's tennis to help teenage players such as Harkleroad adjust to life on the tour.
Harkleroad, who rose to a career high ranking of 39 in June after reaching the third round of the French Open, says she hopes her link-up with Austin will help her get to the top of the game.
"We will sit down and have dinner this week and talk over what happened," Harkleroad said.
"Her experience is invaluable, the programme is an excellent idea and I've benefited from it. I will certainly want to keep in touch with Tracy.
"I want to be able to get into the top 10, the top five, and even number one (in the world rankings)."
Critics, however, suggest Harkleroad is just a product of media hype, and Harkleroad is aware of her need to win matches as well as admirers.
"My agent tells me what I have to do off court," she said. "I go and do it. But tennis is the most important thing."