Stuttgart: Three-time defending Stuttgart champion Maria Sharapova lost her opening claycourt match of the season on Thursday, going down 6-2, 5-7, 1-6 to Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the German city.
The defeat was Sharapova’s first at the venue after sweeping to the title in 2012, 2013 and 2014 on the back of 13 successive wins. It also means the French Open champion will lose her World No 2 ranking to Simona Halep next week.
The defeat for 28-year-old Sharapova ended a seven-year streak of 64 successive wins on clay after securing the first set.
Kerber, the World No 14, will face Sharapova’s Russian compatriot Ekaterina Makarova in the quarter-finals. Sharapova, who skipped Russia’s Fed Cup semi-final win over Germany with a leg injury last weekend, was on course for a comfortable win at one stage, leading by a set and 5-4. But left-handed Kerber won three games in a row to sneak the second set 7-5 before eventually taking victory after two hours and 27 minutes. Sharapova finished with 44 winners to 40 unforced errors.