Rome: French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova`s poor form continued on Monday when she was knocked out of the Italian Open 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 by Russian compatriot Maria Kirilenko.
The world number five has been exiting tournaments in the early stages all year and the trend looked likely to continue from the moment she fired a backhand into the net to surrender serve in the first game.
Monday`s defeat for Kuznetsova, in her first match at a key warm-up tournament, was a bad sign as she prepares for her Roland Garros defence starting later this month.
"I found it hard to play -- I didn`t have many matches this year," Kuznetsova, who reached the final here last year, told a news conference. "I still have to find myself out there."
Unseeded Kirilenko did not have to do a great deal to bag the first set, with the twice Grand Slam winner doing most of the work for her with a raft of mis-hit shots.
Kuznetsova tidied up her act and took the second set and then pulled herself level after going 4-1 down in the decider only to let serve and the match slip in the last game.
World number one Serena Williams will make her return in the tournament on Tuesday, having been out of action with a knee problem since winning the Australian Open in January.
Her second-round opponent will be Swiss Timea Bacsinszky, who beat Czech Sandra Zahlavova 6-0, 6-4.
Serbia`s former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic, who has slipped to 58th in the rankings after being top two years ago, progressed to the second round with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Russian Elena Vesnina.