Third seed Sloane Stephens beaten at Brisbane International
FORMER US Open champion Sloane Stephens has been bundled out of the Brisbane International in the first round by Briton Johanna Konta.
A 2016 Australian Open semi-finalist, world No.37 Konta upset third-seeded American Stephens 6-4 6-3 in under two hours to book a second round clash with Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic.
World No.46 Tomljanovic began her Brisbane campaign with a comeback 1-6 6-3 6-0 win over Czech Katerina Siniakova.
"It's always nice to win but I felt kind of scrappy all around," Tomljanovic said after the victory over world No.31 Siniakova.
"I think I was a break down at 40-15 and it was like 26 minutes (into match) and I was like 'oh, my God. It can't get worse than this.'
"I just kind of kept at it. I didn't expect the third to be so kind of quick and easy."
Australian No.2 Daria Gavrilova wasn't so lucky.
The world No.35 bowed out 6-3 6-3 in her first round clash with eighth-seeded Latvian Anastasija Sevastova.
But the biggest shock came when world No.6 Stephens fell at the first hurdle.
She began sluggishly against Konta in their first career meeting and was punished for a string of unforced errors.
The 2017 US Open winner's only respite came at 1-0 down in the second set when play was suspended for several minutes while a member of the crowd was treated for a medical issue.
Stephens, 25, had hoped to pick up where she left off in 2018 after entering a new season ranked in the world's top 10 for the first time.
However, she must now reload at next week's Sydney International in her final hit-out before the opening grand slam in Melbourne.
It marked the 27-year-old Konta's 15th career victory over a top 10 opponent and first since knocking over world No.2 Simona Halep at 2017 Wimbledon.
"The first match of the year is never easy," Stephens said.