By Pritha Sarkar
PARIS (Reuters) - Angelique Kerber discovered that being the newest member of the grand slam winner's club did not earn her any free points as the Australian Open champion succumbed to a 6-2 3-6 6-3 first-round defeat by Kiki Bertens at the French Open on Tuesday.
The German third seed's first grand slam match since triumphing at Melbourne Park in January ended in pain and despair as a shoulder injury prevented her from making much impact against hard-hitting Dutchwoman Bertens.
Kerber stepped on court wearing a striking black and white outfit but over the course of the next hour and 41 minutes, her mood had turned as grey as the dark clouds hovering over Roland Garros.
"I'm disappointed that I lost the first round here...that was for sure not my best tennis I played today," the dejected 28-year-old, who took a medical time out in the third set, told reporters.
"I tried to fight but she played good then in the important
The result completed a hat-trick of losses for Kerber, who suffered back-to-back defeats in her opening matches in Madrid and Rome.
The clay court season which had started so promisingly for the 28-year-old when she captured the title in Stuttgart, ended with a whimper on a cold, overcast day in front of rows of empty seats on Philippe Chatrier Court.
The absence of spectators in the 15,000-seater arena mattered little to Bertens who blindsided her opponent with some ferocious ground strokes in the opening set.
While Kerber staged a comeback in the second, she struggled to get her shoulder moving in the third set and went off court for treatment when trailing 3-0.
"I start feeling the pain in the second set. It was getting worse and worse," Kerber said.
The unscheduled break failed to revitalise her, however, and after saving two match points, Kerber surrendered her title hopes with an ill-judged dropshot that failed to clear the net.
World number 58 Bertens, who won the Nuremberg title at the weekend, will next play either French wild card Alize Lim or Italian Camila Giorgi.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)