- Maria Sharapova exits Paris Open at quarterfinal stage
- Top seed beaten in straight sets by Angelique Kerber of Germany
- Sharapova set to rise to No.2 in the new rankings despite defeat
- Current No.2 Petra Kvitova pulls out of Qatar Open through injury
Top seed Maria Sharapova made a surprise exit from the WTA Paris Open when she was beaten in the quarterfinals Friday by German ninth seed Angelique Kerber.
Sharapova had beaten Kerber in straight sets on the way to the final of the Australian Open last month, but was below her best as he slumped to a 6-4 6-4 defeat in the Pierre de Coubertin indoor arena.
The Russian was playing her first tournament since losing to new World No.1 Victoria Azarenka in the title match at the opening grand slam of the year.
She came through her first match and will rise to No.2 in the world rankings next week, but despite breaking Kerber's service twice in the opening set lost control of the match.
World No.27 Kerber broke back twice to forge a 5-4 lead and Sharapova made two unforced errors to hand her the set.
Sharapova was also erratic in the second set, again giving up an early break. An backhand which flew out on match point saw Kerber clinch her first victory over a top-10 player.
"It was a tough day because my opponent played really well," Sharapova told AFP.
"I did have opportunities but I didn't take them today.
"I was up in both sets and I had breaks but she played extremely well -- much better than I did, in any case.
Kerbe will play either Belgian Yanina Wickmayer or German qualifier Mona Barthel for a place in the final. Czech world number 51 Klara Zakopalova beat German sixth seed Julia Goerges 3-6 7-5 6-1 in their quarterfinal.
Zakopalova will play Marion Bartoli of France after the second seed battled back to beat Italy's Roberta Vinci, 4-6, 6-4 7-6.
Bartoli trailed a set and 1-4 and was down 5-2 in the decider before delighting the home crowd with victory over the seventh seed.
In other WTA news, Petra Kvitova has pulled out of next week's Qatar Open with an achilles tendon injury. The Czech will lose her No.2 ranking to Sharapova on Monday, but is resting after a hectic January which saw her win the Hopman Cup in Perth with compatriot Tomas Berdych.
She made the semifinals in Sydney and the Australian Open before helping her country into the semifinals of the Fed Cup World Group.