DUBAI (AFP) - Former US Open champion Samantha Stosur crashed out on Tuesday (Feb 20) in the first round of the Dubai Championship 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 to Estonian Anett Kontaveit.
After winning the opening set, Stosur lost the second and then trailed 2-5 in the third, reaching 4-5 but double-faulting on a Kontaveit match point to go out.
Since the start of the season, the 33-year-old Australian has lost six matches and had been forced to qualify into a tournament main draw for the first time since Zurich in 2008.
Stosur was plagued by eight double faults, was broken four times and managed a single ace as she lost in an hour and three-quarters at the Aviation Club.
American CiCi Bellis advanced past Belgium's Australian Open semi-finalist Elise Mertens 6-3, 6-3 while Wang Qiang of China beat Kiki Bertens 6-3, 6-0 in 55 minutes.
Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro beat Russia qualifier Sofya Zhuk 6-2, 6-2.
Wild card Bellis, a 2017 quarter-finalist here, earned a date with second seed and current Wimbledon winner Garbine Muguruza a week after beating US Open finalist Madison Keys and Karolina Pliskova in Qatar.
"I've never played her before. It's definitely going to be a new experience for me. It will be fun. She's an unbelievable player," Bellis said.
"She's been at the top of the game for a while now. It will be great for me just to see where my game lines up against another one of the top players."
After holding the number one ranking for a month last autumn, Muguruza remains keen for another taste of life at the top of the WTA.
"It is important," the Spaniard said. "I always have it in my mind, to be able to fight for that.
"It was a great feeling to be there (number one), even though it's tough. I know it's the hardest one, but I'm going to be there, try to."
The world number three arrived in the Emirate after losing the weekend Doha final to Petra Kvitova.
Muguruza said that after reaching the WTA summit, her intensity to play for ranking may have tapered off - but she keeps the goal at the top of her tennis agenda.
The WTA top ranking was a revolving door in 2017, with five women holding the spot during the season.
"When you're number one, you feel like every tournament you play, you kind of almost have to win it. You have to always maintain a super-high level for everyone you play because everybody's playing super-relaxed, with nothing to lose.
"You feel a lot of pressure, there are a lot of things to control."
The 24-year-old added: "You realise a lot of things when you're there. You're like, 'I'm here, I can't go more up, all I can do is go down. There's all these girls that want my spot, I have to defend it. You have this, like, alarm all the time.'"
Muguruza, seeded to meet holder Elina Svitolina in the final, said she is less stressed by her ranking now that she's been to the top and back.
"I'm trying to be a little bit less (intense). Now (today's) type of game and players, it's going to be a lot of movement. I don't want to be thinking every tournament what are the options for this and for that.
"Because I was already number one last year, it's less dramatic. I always know there's a chance. That's fine for me."