Time running out for Roddick after latest early exit

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The symbolism was stark. As Andy Roddick left Centre Court here yesterday, crushed 7-6, 7-6, 6-4 by Feliciano Lopez, the 28-year-old American handed his racket to a young boy. With each passing year Roddick's chances of realising his lifelong aim are receding as quickly as his hairline.

"If I had Wimbledon, I'd have everything I want," Roddick told an interviewer last year. He has come desperately close to climbing the mountain – never closer than two years ago, when he lost to Roger Federer in the final for the third time, losing 16-14 in an unforgettable last set – but this was further evidence that he has trouble getting beyond base camp these days.

One of Wimbledon's great favourites of the last decade admitted after this latest disappointment the thought of not winning the title here did sometimes cross his mind. "You're human, of course it does," he said.

Roddick has now made an early exit on three of his last four appearances here. He admits that he "completely choked" against Janko Tipsarevic in the second round three years ago and gave away "a million opportunities" when losing to Yen-Hsun Lu in the fourth round last year.

The world No 10 did not think he played badly this time and gave Lopez (below) credit for playing "an outstanding match", but the 29-year-old Spaniard, for all his excellence on grass, is not the sort of opponent you should lose to if you have ambitions of winning Grand Slams. Lopez had lost his last 11 matches against top 10 opponents and has had only average success this year.

Roddick, meanwhile, had won all seven of his previous matches against the world No 44, dropping just three sets in the process, and had beaten him on their most recent meeting a fortnight ago at Queen's Club in their first clash on grass.

With two explosive servers on view – Roddick hit 23 aces and served up to 143mph while Lopez hit 26 with a top speed of 135mph – it was inevitable that breaks would be at a premium.

Lopez drew first blood in the ninth game before Roddick replied in kind, but the Spaniard played much the better tie-break, dropping only two points. Roddick regrouped and there were no breaks of serve in the second set, Lopez winning the tie-break 7-2.

At 1-1 in the third set, Lopez broke serve again and the match was over. "He served about as well as anyone has," Roddick said. "He did well today. He mixed up his serve. I gave my racket away as it was just going to go to waste. I figured a seven-year-old would get more use out of it."