MADRID - World number two Simona Halep slumped to a shock 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 defeat to France's Alize Cornet in the first round of the Madrid Open on Sunday.
Halep reached the final in the Spanish capital last year, but looked out of sorts as a double fault handed Cornet the opening set in a tie-break.
And the Romanian's serve crumbled when serving to stay in the match in the second as Cornet wrapped up victory in just under two hours on court.
Halep's exit could be a big boost to defending champion Maria Sharapova who showed no signs of her recent struggles with form and fitness as she beat Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky 6-2, 6-3.
Sharapova had been set to met Halep in the last four had both women made it that far.
The Russian dominated the Bacsinszky serve in the first set to break three times and then depended on her own in the second as one break in the eighth game was enough to set up a second round clash with Britain's Heather Watson or Colombian Mariana Duque-Marino.
Caroline Wozniacki continued her encouraging form of late with a comfortable 6-3, 6-0 win over Australia's Jarmila Gajdosova.
The Dane's conquerer in the final in Stuttgart last weekend, Angelique Kerber, suffered an early exit, though, as the German lost out 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to former US Open champion Samantha Stosur.
There was also plenty for the home fans to cheer as 10th seed Carla Suarez Navarro and world number 20 Garbine Muguruza booked their places in the second round with straight sets wins over Zarina Diyas and Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor respectively.