Emma Raducanu said she “struggled with everything” as she was beaten by world number 30 Anhelina Kalinina in the first round of the Qatar Open in Doha.
The Briton was well below par in a one-sided first set, hitting 15 unforced errors to her Ukrainian opponent’s two.
She saved two match points in a far more competitive second but Kalinina came through to win 6-0 7-6 (8-6).
“I was struggling with everything – serve, return, forehand, backhand,” Raducanu, 21, told Sky Sports.
“I felt like I never really got into it.”
The former US Open champion is in the early stages of her comeback after missing most of 2023 following surgery on both of her hands and left ankle.
She won one match in Auckland in her first tournament back, reached the second round of the Australian Open and beat world number 36 Marie Bouzkova in Abu Dhabi last week.
But that win was followed by a comprehensive defeat by second seed Ons Jabeur and, having been given another wildcard this week in Qatar, she suffered another early exit.
Raducanu had a set point at 6-5 on her serve in the second-set breaker but Kalinina saved it and took the next two points to seal victory.
The Briton hit 48 unforced errors compared to 22 by Kalinina, who will play eighth seed Jelena Ostapenko next.
“It was combination of things,” Raducanu said.
“It was my first day-match I have played in a year. That is different.
“I need to practise training outside a bit more. The lights, conditions, shadows… it is really hard to see the ball, I found towards the end.
“When my tennis isn’t there I have to try and at least fight and I did that in the second set.”
Raducanu said she will now return home after consecutive weeks on tour but said she needs to “schedule my tournaments a bit better”.
“I just struggled with the timing of the ball,” she said. “It will come with more time practising as well as matches.
“It is hard for me to get used to the tour schedule. It is one tournament then another straight away.
“I need to schedule my tournaments a bit better and try to get more matches under my belt.”
Also on Monday, four-time major champion Naomi Osaka won her first-round tie 7-5 6-4 against Caroline Garcia of France.
Osaka, 26, made her Grand Slam return at the Australian Open in January after giving birth last year, but was knocked out in the first round by 30-year-old Garcia.
In Doha, the Japanese player was 5-3 down in the first set before 15th seed Garcia faltered, allowing Osaka a chance to recover and seal the set by winning four games in a row.
Meanwhile, Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, a two-time winner of the tournament, beat Poland’s Magdalena Frech 6-3 3-6 6-3 in the opening round.
Osaka, who is unseeded, will face Croatia’s Petra Martic in the next round, while Azarenka will take on China’s Xinyu Wang.
In the second round, Polish world number one and top seed Iga Swiatek swept aside Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 6-1 6-1 in just over an hour.
Olivia Martin is a dedicated sports journalist based in the UK. With a passion for various athletic disciplines, she covers everything from major league championships to local sports events, delivering up-to-the-minute updates and in-depth analysis.