Tennis world stunned by Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka 'disaster'

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, pictured here in action at the Italian Open.
Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka both fell at the first hurdle in Rome. Image: Getty

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka have both crashed out of the Italian Open at the first hurdle, robbing fans of a potential fourth-round showdown between the pair.

While World No.1 Ash Barty continued her incredible form to make the third round, it was a day of carnage for a number of her biggest rivals.

'GENIUS AT WORK': Ash Barty's insane act of clay court mastery

WILD: Rafa Nadal's startling confession in $26 billion sporting crisis

Osaka's clay court misery continued on Wednesday in a 7-6 (7/2), 6-2 loss to American Jessica Pegula.

The four-time grand slam winner, seeded second in Rome, had received a first-round bye but was unable to find her way back into the match after losing the first-set tie-break to her 31st-ranked opponent.

Osaka was playing just her third tournament since winning the Australian Open in February, and also exited in the second round in Madrid earlier this month.

The reigning US Open champion has seven career hard-court titles but has never managed to lift a clay-court trophy.

Serena Williams loses in 1000th WTA match

Just hours later, Williams also crashed out with a second round defeat to Argentina's Nadia Podoroska, weeks before her bid to make history at Roland Garros.

Playing the 1000th WTA match of her career and first since the Australian Open, the 39-year-old lost 7-6 (8/6), 7-5 to a player 15 years her junior who was a surprise semi-finalist at last year's Roland Garros.

"You know, it's tough to have a first match on clay," said Williams, who has won 73 WTA titles over the past two decades.

"It was definitely kind of good to go the distance and to try to be out there, but clearly I can do legions better.

"Maybe I do need a few more matches, so I'm going to try to figure that out with my coach and my team and see what we would like to do."

Naomi Osaka, pictured here during her loss to Jessica Pegula at the Italian Open.
Naomi Osaka looks dejected during her loss to Jessica Pegula at the Italian Open. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Williams, a four-time winner in Rome and 23-time grand slam champion, had not played since her semi-final defeat to Osaka in the Australian Open semis.

And the eighth seed found it tough going, losing in just under two hours to the 44th-ranked Argentine.

"Overall, it was good for me to play such a clay court player on clay today, but it's a little frustrating," she conceded.

"Yeah, just filling out the game, finding the rhythm. Even sliding and confidence with that, with movement, and just not wanting to break my ankle when I moved.

"That's always like a little struggle in the first two matches, and then I'm raring to go."

Simona Halep in doubt for French Open

And Simona Halep joined Osaka and Williams in making early exits after suffering a tear in her left calf against Angelique Kerber.

The Romanian, who won the French Open title in 2018, had to retire while leading 6-1 3-3 after she showed discomfort while trying to reach a first serve.

Halep massaged her left calf before hobbling to her bench, where she received treatment from a physio.

Unable to move, Halep decided to withdraw from the match and needed assistance to get off the court, causing doubt over whether she would be fit in time for the French Open, which begins on May 30.

She later wrote on Twitter that an ultrasound scan had revealed a tear in her left calf.

"I will get an MRI tomorrow to understand the injury in more detail, but at the moment we are unsure of recovery time," she said.

"I'm so disappointed to end my tournament in Rome like this but I will do everything I can to take care of the injury and be back as soon as possible."

There were no such troubles for Barty, who was given an early examination by Kazakhstan's Yaroslava Shvedova before reeling off 10 of the last 11 games to win 6-4 6-1 in 78 minutes.

with agencies

Watch 'Mind Games', the new series from Yahoo Sport Australia exploring the often brutal mental toil elite athletes go through in pursuit of greatness:

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.