London - Kei Nishikori admitted on Friday that he's just not a very good grass-court player after suffering a seventh first week exit in nine visits to Wimbledon.
The 27-year-old world number nine slumped to a 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 6-3 loss to Spanish 18th seed Roberto Bautista Agut, who booked a place in the last 16 for the second time.
For Nishikori, his sour relationship with grass goes on leaving him with just two runs to the last 16 in his career, confirming Wimbledon as his worst Slam.
"It's not easy. I don't have good results on grass. I have got to work on it every year," said Nishikori, who has reached at least the quarter-finals of the other three majors.
The Japanese star's overall record on grass makes for grim reading.
He warmed up for Wimbledon at Halle, where he retired with a left hip injury while trailing Karen Khachanov 2-3.
In fact, Nishikori has either retired or given a walkover at each of the last five grass-court tournaments he contested coming into Wimbledon.
At Halle and Wimbledon in 2015, he suffered a calf injury while at the same tournaments a year later he was undone by a problem with his ribs.
In total, he has retired or given a walkover at eight of the 21 Tour-level grass court tournaments he had contested in his career before this year's Wimbledon.
On Court Three on Friday in temperatures nudging 30 degrees, it was a familiar tale of woe.
Nishikori converted just two of 11 break points and committed 48 unforced errors.
He also picked up a time violation and threw his racquet into the back wall.
"I couldn't maintain my level high enough, you know, to beat Bautista today," said 2014 US Open runner-up Nishikori, who had won all four of his previous meetings with the Spaniard.
"I think he served well every set. It was a tough time on my return game. I had many chances, but I think he played the important points well."
The dispiriting loss was his earliest departure from a major since his first round defeat against Benoit Paire at the 2015 US Open.
It also meant that Naomi Osaka was the last Japanese competitor in the singles.
She was facing five-time champion Venus Williams later on Friday.
Bautista Agut, meanwhile, will play Marin Cilic for a place in the quarter-finals.
Croatian seventh seed Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, defeated Steve Johnson of the United States 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 to reach the fourth round for the sixth time.
Wimbledon results on Friday, the fifth day of the 2017 championships at the All England Club (x denotes seeding):
Benot Paire (FRA) bt Jerzy Janowicz (POL) 6-2, 7-6 (7/3), 6-3
Gilles Muller (LUX x16) bt Aljaz Bedene (GBR) 7-6 (7/4), 7-5, 6-4
Roberto Bautista (ESP x18) bt Kei Nishikori (JPN x9) 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 6-3
Marin Cilic (CRO x7) bt Steve Johnson (USA x26) 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4
Ana Konjuh (CRO x27) bt Dominika Cibulkova (SVK x8) 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 6-4
Elina Svitolina (UKR x4) bt Carina Witthoeft (GER) 6-1, 7-5
Johanna Konta (GBR x6) bt Maria Sakkari (GRE) 6-4, 6-1
Caroline Garcia (FRA x21) bt Madison Brengle (USA) 6-4, 6-3
Victoria Azarenka (BLR) bt Heather Watson (GBR) 3-6, 6-1, 6-4
Simona Halep (ROM x2) bt Peng Shuai (CHN) 6-4, 7-6 (9/7)