Rome — World No1 Angelique Kerber crashed out of the Rome Masters on Wednesday, the top seed beaten 6-4 6-0 in the second round by Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.
The German’s 56-minute knockout came two days after she was confirmed at the top of the WTA rankings, displacing Serena Williams after making it to the third round at last week’s Madrid Open.
The defeat demonstrated more of the patchy and inconsistent form that the 29-year-old cannot seem to shake off since starting to duel with Williams at the top of the WTA listings last season.
She lost serve five times to join another drawcard, Maria Sharapova, on the sidelines.
"It feels great," a beaming Kontaveit said. "It’s my first time beating the No1 in the world, so, you know, I’m super excited."
Kontaveit has been on fire for the past couple of months, when she roared into her first WTA final at the inaugural Ladies Open Biel Bienne at an indoor arena in Switzerland.
The former junior prodigy followed up that form with a first Top 10 win at the Porsche Grand Prix, outlasting reigning Roland Garros champion Garbiñe Muguruza in three tough sets en route to the quarterfinals.
"I think it does feel like an advantage in a way that I have had a few matches," she said of the opportunity to play qualifying. "I feel comfortable on the courts here. Yeah, I think it’s been good."
"Everybody knows I’m not a clay court specialist," Kerber reminded journalists. "I was not playing good last year, as well.
"I think I need one good match to get my confidence back…. I’m not feeling so well on this surface."
Second seed Karolina Plis-kova beat Lauren Davis 6-1 6-1, Madrid winner Simona Halep started with a win over Germany’s Laura Siegemund 6-4 6-4 and eighth seed Elina Svitolina put out Alize Cornet 6-4 7-6 (13/11).
Rafael Nadal advanced to the third round as fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro was forced to quit with a left knee injury.
Three-time French Open quarterfinalist Almagro — he lost all three to Nadal — was unable to continue after 24 minutes while trailing his compatriot 3-0 in the first set.
It was a 50th win for Nadal in Rome and he is on a hot streak after sweeping the honours on clay at Monte Carlo, Barcelona and last weekend in Madrid.
"I am happy with almost everything, I am playing well. I won a lot of matches this year," said the fourth seed, who next faces either Jack Sock or Jiri Vesely as he builds up towards Roland Garros.
"There is always things to improve, but it is not the right time to say I’m not happy with one thing or another. I am happy with everything."
Joining Nadal in the next round was Kei Nishikori, winner over David Ferrer 7-5 6-2.