Maria Sharapova suffered her first defeat on clay in 2014 on Thursday, as she was knocked out in the third round of the Internazionali BNL D’Italia in Rome by Serbian Ana Ivanovic.
The eighth seed was last beaten on the red surface in the final of the Madrid Open in 2013, and the loss to the world number 13 brought to an end a run of 12 straight wins on clay, which helped her win tournaments in Stuttgart in April and Madrid last week.
The 27-year-old had not lost to any other player than Serena Williams on clay since the semi-finals of the French Open in 2011, and her success on the red dirt has included reaching the final at Roland Garros in 2013.
Ivanovic ended her seven match losing streak against her Russian opponent to win 6-1, 6-4, and she is yet to lose a set in the tournament at the Foro Italico.
A one-sided opening set was won by Ivanovic in just 31 minutes, and she then moved up an early break in the first game of the second set.
But Sharapova then broke back in the next game, and both players held serve until the ninth game of the set, when a forehand winner sent Ivanovic into a 5-4 lead, and she then served the match out in the next game to book her place in the last eight.
It was the 11th match between the pair, and Ivanovic completed just her third victory over the four-time Grand Slam champion, with her last win in their head to head series coming at the French Open in 2007.
The 26-year-old Ivanovic has shown some encouraging form on clay this year, as she also reached the final of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart at the end of April, where she was beaten by Sharapova.
The former world number one has already won two WTA singles titles in 2014, winning tournaments in Auckland in January and in Monterrey in April, and she is aiming to win the 14th singles title of her career.
She will next face 13th seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain in the quarter-finals, a player ranked just one place below her.
Ivanovic was the victor in their only previous meeting in Doha in 2012, when Suarez Navarro was forced to retire injured, and their battle for a place in the last four of the tournament is scheduled to be played second on the Grandstand court on Friday.
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