The No. 1 seed at the French Open fell 6-2, 7-6 (4) to 15th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova on a windy, gray day at Roland Garros in which the world’s top-ranked player hardly looked the part.
Azarenka, who won the Australian Open to start the 2012 Grand Slam season, pulled out a first game that went nine deuces and took 15 minutes but didn’t capture any momentum from that.
Cibulkova rolled off six of the next seven to take the first set.
Then, she came back for a 3-2 lead after falling down a break early in the second.
Azarenka bashed her racket into the ground during the changeover and received a warning for racket abuse.
Her frustration was still showing after the match, when, asked what she would do to recover from the loss, she answered sarcastically.
“I’m going to kill myself,” she said. “This tournament is over for me. What’s to recover from? It’s (time) to really look forward and improve. That’s it.”
Down 6-3 in the second-set tiebreaker, Azarenka saved one match point.
But on the second, Cibulkova drew her to net with a drop shot, then passed her easily for the winner.
The Slovakian dropped onto the red clay to celebrate. She had taken Azarenka to three sets the last five times they played, but her only victory in that streak came in 2008 at Amelia Island — the last time they met on clay.
“Before, I was at least making something happen myself,” Azarenka said, when asked about those previous three-setters. “Today I couldn’t do it. All I could hope for is for her mistake. I couldn’t make anything myself today.”
Azarenka joins a large group of so-called favorites on the sidelines. The Williams sisters, former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and former champions Ana Ivanovic and Francesca Schiavone are among those already gone with the second week just getting under way.
Five women have won the last five Grand Slam titles and the last four majors have been won by first-time champions.
The only former champion left in the draw is Li Na.
“I’m happy and curious,” said Errani, now in her second straight Grand Slam quarterfinal. “The strongest sensation is curiosity — to see how far I can go, and up to what level I can arrive. Even I don’t really know.”
Kerber had only one victory in her previous four appearances at Roland Garros. She now finds herself two wins away from playing for the title and wondering: Why not her?
“It’s a new situation,” Kerber said. “I’ve played good from the beginning of the year. I think the players know right now who I am, and, yeah, I think nobody wants to play against me right now.”