Halep, Azarenka crash out in Rome

Williams and Kvitova reach second round in Miami

Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka both suffered shock defeats in the second round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on Wednesday.

Sixth seed Halep, fresh from winning the title in Madrid last week, was beaten 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 by Daria Gavrilova, who clearly enjoys playing in Rome, having reached the semi-finals here last year.

“I played pretty well the whole match,” Gavrilova said after her win. “It was always going to be a tough battle because we’re pretty similar players.

“A few years back, I was watching her play thinking, ‘I could play like her,’ and beating her today was an unreal feeling. I was super happy. After the rain delay, I could reset and come out there playing very good!”

Halep and Gavrilova were locked at a set apiece when rain delayed proceedings, and when the players headed back out, it was the Australian who took command, breaking her opponent’s serve three times in a row.

“Maybe if it wouldn’t rain, maybe I would have played better,” Halep said. “But that’s it. I cannot change anything. If it’s raining, it’s raining. If I lose, you lose. I won a lot of matches last week, so I don’t give up now that I lost one match.”

Fourth seed Azarenka, meanwhile, was knocked out 6-3, 6-2 by Irina-Camelia Begu.

Injury has disrupted the Belarusian’s clay court season so far, and she clearly wasn’t at her best against Begu, who took full advantage of her rustiness.

It’s Begu’s first win over Azarenka in six meetings.

“It was a really nice match. I served really well and I played my best at the important moments, so I’m really happy with the win and looking forward to the next one,” she said.

Azarenka said: “[My back is] not good right now. We’ll see what happens. I don’t know what to tell you. I’m very disappointed obviously with that. I thought I was okay and was ready to play and came back, so I’m just disappointed.”

Later in the evening, fifth seed Petra Kvitova joined the exodus as she went down 6-3, 6-4 to American Madison Keys.

Third seed Garbine Muguruza had more luck, thumping Ekaterina Makarova, 6-1, 6-0, while Eugenie Bouchard secured an important 6-1, 5-7, 7-5 victory over Angelique Kerber – her first over a top 10 player since 2014 – as yet another seed was eliminated.

Others to advance included Christina McHale, who beat Ana Ivanovic 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-1, and Johanna Konta, who defeated Roberta Vinci 6-0, 6-4.