MIAMI - Defending champion Sloane Stephens was sent packing from the Miami Open on Sunday after a 6-3 6-2 loss to Germany’s Tatjana Maria in the third round.

Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion and world No. 6, had no answer to Florida-based Maria’s slices, chips and lobs and suffered a second consecutive early exit after losing her first match in Indian Wells to Swiss qualifier Stefanie Vogele. Earlier on Sunday, second seed Simona Halep fought back from a set down to defeat Polona Hercog while Venus Williams reached the next round with a straight sets win over Daria Kasatkina.

Halep had nothing but praise for Hercog, who has a world ranking of 93rd, after dropping the first set and being pushed all the way in the second by the Slovenian. The Romanian dominated the tiebreak to turn the match around and eventually triumphed 5-7 7-6(1) 6-2. “It was not easy at all,” Halep said. “I think the level was very, very high.

She played unbelievable. If she keeps playing like this, she can be top 20 easy.”