New York: Romanian teenager Simona Halep stunned French Open champion Li Na 6-2, 7-5 on Tuesday in the first round of the US Open tennis championships.
Halep, ranked 53rd in the world, needed just an hour and 33 minutes to dispatch China's sixth-ranked Li, who became the first Grand Slam champion from Asia with her victory at Roland Garros.
Since that triumph, Li has become a heroine in her homeland, but she has struggled on the court, losing in the second round at Wimbledon to eventual semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki.
Her run to the semi-finals at New Haven last week marked the only time she has put back-to-back match wins together since Roland Garros.
"I really wanted to do well after Roland Garros," she said. "But it's not easy to do. Now I lose all the confidence on the court.
"I was feeling, 'Oh, tennis is just too tough for me.'"
It's a far cry from the confident face that Li presented earlier this year, when she reached the final of the Australian Open, then made her breakthrough triumph with victory over defending French Open champion Francesca Schiavone.
The victory, watched by 116 million Chinese, catapulted Li among the country's sporting greats, generating frenzied media coverage and a massive boost for tennis in the world's most populous nation.
Now, Li said, she feels she's playing with a target on her back, with other players raising their level when they face her.
"Because after they beat you, they think, 'Oh, I beat a Grand Slam champion,'" she said.
Li, who showed she is not afraid to shake things up when she sacked her husband as coach and started working with Denmark's Michael Mortensen, said it might be time to make changes again.
"Before the match, I talked to my coach. I said I didn't have good timing to hit the ball. He told me everything is perfect, everything is fantastic.
"I say, 'Yes, everything is fantastic, but I always lose first round.'
"This is not fantastic. I think we need to change something. I think maybe the coach just tried to give me confidence, but I don't think I got it."
On Tuesday, Li looked out of sorts from the start, and Halep, 19, took full advantage to notch her first victory over a top-10 player in four attempts.
After taking the opening set, Halep gained an early break to lead 3-1 in the second.
Li squandered a golden opportunity when she failed to convert a triple break point in the sixth game.
Li finally managed to get the second set back on serve in the eighth game, then held to take a 5-4 lead.
In the end, however, she couldn't overcome 54 unforced errors - the last a backhand long on match point.
Li's exit leaves the women's field without all three of this year's Grand Slam champions.
Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters, winner of the last two US Open titles, is absent with a stomach muscle injury. Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova lost on Monday, falling to another Romanian, Alexandra Dulgheru.