Doha, 23 February 2011 | AP

Australia’s Jarmila Groth has been knocked out in the first round of the Qatar Open in Doha on Tuesday.

Groth lost a tight three-set battle to Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova 6-4 4-6 7-6(8).

Two-time grand slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova was also ousted in the first round, beaten by Shahar Peer of Israel 6-2 6-4.

Kuznetsova, two days after losing the final in nearby Dubai to new No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, looked a shadow of herself and appeared to struggle with a foot problem for which she received treatment in the second set.

The eighth-seeded Peer broke the Russian six times, sending Kuznetsova out of the Doha first round for the first time.

She was runner-up in 2004 and 2007.

Victoria Azarenka’s poor start to the year was extended when she lost to Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia 4-6 6-1 6-2.

Azarenka, ranked 9th, has only one quarterfinal in four tournaments this year.

She made a good start in the first set but collapsed over the next two.

Azarenka led 2-0 in the third and lost the last six games. Hantuchova finished her off with her ninth ace.

“I stayed calm and played really aggressive in the second and third [sets],” said Hantuchova, who won in Pattaya this month.

The other seed in action, No.5 Jelena Jankovic, easily handled Oman wild card Fatma Al Nabhani 6-1 6-3.

Kaia Kanepi of Estonia withdrew because of a fever, leaving Chinese qualifier Peng Shuai to beat Swiss lucky loser Timea Bacsinszky 6-3 6-2.

Other winners included Flavia Pennetta of Italy, qualifier Vera Dushevina of Russia and another lucky loser, Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic.