Sloane Stephens, the No. 2 seed in the Citi Open and the 15th-ranked player in the world, dropped her first-round match to No. 88 Olga Puchkova, 7-5, 6-3, at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center.
The 20-year-old lumbered stiffly around the baseline with her head down between points, body language that indicated she was searching for the game that helped her beat Serena Williams in this year's Australian Open.
"I just didn't play that well, wasn't feeling the ball great," Stephens said. "I would say that I'm a pretty consistent player — I don't really hit balls all over the place, that's not really how I play — but today there were some that I really couldn't believe it went that far out."
Stephens held serve in a small rally then broke Puchkova, but inconsistency struck again as a few unforced errors let Puchkova break back.
Mistakes doomed Stephens again in the second. Many forehands flew long and she looked uncomfortable both on serve and off. The low point came when, up 40-love and on serve, Stephens let Puchkova come all the way back, eventually allowing her to break with a double fault.
Stephens didn't record an ace and allowed Puchkova 15 break points.
Stephens, who battled a torn abdominal muscle last year, said she felt fine physically.
"When I'm injured, I play great, and when I'm healthy I can't hit a ball in the court," she joked.
—The Washington PostCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun