PARIS, May 27 (AFP): Former champion Li Na, the second-seeded Chinese superstar and Australian Open winner, was sensationally dumped out of the French Open in the first round on Tuesday, beaten by a tearful Kristina Mladenovic.
Li, the 2011 champion, went down 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 to the 103rd-ranked blonde French woman, the Roland Garros junior champion in 2009, to suffer her first opening round defeat in Paris in eight visits.
The 2hr 06min loss on a windswept and chilly Suzanne Lenglen court saw Li undone by 37 unforced errors.
Mladenovic, who was Australian Open mixed doubles champion this year with Daniel Nestor, goes on to face Alison Riske of the United States for a place in the third round.
�It�s just incredible,� said Mladenovic, who was 36 in the world last August.
�I don�t have the words to describe what just happened. To beat the world number two in the first round at Roland Garros, it�s incredible. Without the crowd, I could not have done it.�
Li�s shock defeat means that both Australian Open champions have been knocked out in the first round after Stan Wawrinka�s listless defeat on Monday.
Also making an early exit on Tuesday was Bulgarian men�s 11th seed Grigor Dimitrov who lost 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (7/4) to giant Croat Ivo Karlovic.
Karlovic fired 22 aces and wasn�t broken by Dimitrov who won the Bucharest claycourt title this spring and was a semi-finalist at the Rome Masters.
The 35-year-old Karlovic has now equalled his best French Open performance and next faces either Daniel Brands of Germany or Austria�s Andreas Haider-Maurer.
Romanian fourth seed Simona Halep reached the second round with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Russia�s Alisa Kleybanova and next plays Heather Watson of Britain.
The 22-year-old Halep, the winner of seven career titles and a runner-up to Maria Sharapova at the Madrid Open claycourt event this season, raced into a 6-0, 5-0 lead before Kleybanova stopped the rot.
But the Russian, ranked 87 in the world and playing in Paris for the first time since 2010 after undergoing cancer surgery, was eventually undone by her 32 unforced errors as Halep wrapped up victory in 56 minutes.
�I was thinking at that moment at 5-0 that I can win 6-0, 6-0, but it wasn�t too good. I was a little bit relaxed after that, and it was cold. I felt a little bit in my back,� said Halep.
�But I stayed focused after two games lost, and then I served really well.� Other early winners on Tuesday were Svetlana Kuznetsova, the Russian 27th seed and 2009 champion, who beat Georgia�s Sofia Shapatava 6-3, 6-1 while 43-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm of Japan, a semi-finalist in 1995, lost 6-3, 0-6, 6-2 to Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 24th seed.
Meanwhile, eight-time champion Nadal, bidding to become the first man to win five Roland Garros titles in a row, beat US wildcard and world number 279 Robby Ginepri 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 yesterday. It was Nadal�s 60th win at the French Open against just one loss.
World number one Nadal kicked off his campaign yesterday on the secondary Suzanne Lenglen court while title rivals Djokovic and Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka were handed top billing on the main Philippe Chatrier arena.
It was a decision blasted as �bizarre� by one fellow professional even though Nadal himself had criticised the state of the newly-laid clay on Chatrier after a weekend practice session.
Despite the controversy, it was business as usual for Nadal who fired 27 winners past Ginepri, a semi-finalist at the 2005 US Open whose challenge was undone by 41 unforced errors.
Second seed Djokovic, the 2012 runner-up who is seeking a first Roland Garros title to complete a career Grand Slam, brushed aside Portugal�s Joao Sousa, the world 42, in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.