Qatar Open: Maria Sharapova falls in first round to Monica Niculescu

Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova was beaten in the third round of the Australian Open by Angelique Kerber in January

Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu fought her way to an impressive win over Maria Sharapova in the first round of the Qatar Open.

Russia's Sharapova, 30, was beaten 4-6 6-4 6-3 in two hours and 38 minutes by the world number 92 in Doha.

Sharapova, a former world number one, struggled for consistency, with 52 unforced errors throughout the match.

Niculescu will play either Magdalena Rybarikova or wildcard Fatma Al Nabhani in the next round.

Sharapova, ranked 41st in the world, was making her first appearance in Qatar since 2013 after being handed a wildcard.

After clinching the first set at the fourth opportunity, Sharapova was frustrated by Niculescu's slices, and lost her rhythm as the Romanian went on to serve out the match.

Britain's Johanna Konta plays her first round match against American qualifier Bernarda Pera - who beat her in the Australian Open in January - on Tuesday.

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