Beijing: Li Na`s inconsistent form since winning the French Open extended to Beijing on Sunday when she was knocked out of the China Open in the first round by Romanian Monica Niculescu.
Fifth-ranked Li did not appear to put up much of a fight against her 58-ranked opponent on center court before a hopeful crowd, losing 6-4, 6-0.
Since becoming the first Chinese player to take a major title at the French Open in June, the 29-year-old Li lost in the second round at Wimbledon and the first round of the U.S. Open.
The easy victory by the qualifier Niculescu left the crowd stunned. It was Li`s first tournament in China since winning in Paris.
In other games, the former top-ranked Ana Ivanovic easily beat Japan`s Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-1, 6-1, while another hometown favorite, wild card Zhang Shuai, lost to Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 6-0, 6-2.
The tournament is already without Serena Williams, who was left out of Friday`s draw.
Maria Sharapova also pulled out of the tournament after injuring her left ankle at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.