Kerber crashes out in Qatar as seeds scattered
Angelique Kerber was one of at least seven seeds who crashed out of the Qatar Open on late Tuesday, in the German's first singles tournament since winning her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne last month.
The Australian Open champion lost her second round match - she received a first-round bye - in straight sets 7-5, 6-1 to China's Zheng Saisai, who is ranked 70 places below the world No. 2. And on a disastrous day in Doha for the top players, Kerber was joined by the No. 2 seed Simona Halep, who lost in three sets to Elena Vesnina.
Also out was defending champion and No. 7 seed Lucie Safarova. She was defeated in straight sets by Turkey's Cagla Buyukakcay.
Adding to the carnage, the No. 6 seed Belinda Bencic, No. 12 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 14 seed Jelena Jankovic and the No. 16 seed Sara Errani also perished. But on an extraordinary day, it was Kerber's defeat, which proved the most shocking.
In a lacklustre and timid performance, the German lost her serve six times, hit 38 unforced errors - Saisai hit only eight - and was beaten in just one hour and eighteen minutes as her opponent dominated. The second set took just 28 minutes as Kerber's game collapsed.
The out-of-sorts Kerber, who has not played any singles tournaments since beating Serena Williams in Melbourne on January 30, grew increasingly exasperated with her form on a blustery night in Doha and at one point could be heard telling her coach Torben Beltz that she was tired and had no energy.
Afterwards, the Poland-based German said she did not know if her poor performance was down to a lack of match fitness or not being able to respond to the new pressure of being a Grand Slam champion. "I don't know if it was the pressure or not. I know, of course, pressures from the last years, but maybe it was both," she told reporters. "I mean, I was feeling this morning also not good when I was practicing. This is actually what I can say, I don't know how many mistakes I did today.