The South African fell to the No 16 seed, Henrieta Nagyova of Slovakia, 6-2, 6-3, to start a dreary, rain-filled third round. The only other defending champion to lose so early in the tournament was the 1996 winner, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario of Spain, ironically knocked out by Coetzer in 1997.
Coetzer spends about half her year on Hilton Head Island and was the island's darling when she swept to the title last year. The crowd tried to pull her through this time, too, but Nagyova's crushing forehands made it impossible.
"I'm really disappointed to lose this early because I feel like I'm playing some good tennis," Coetzer said. "I didn't give myself a chance to play any of the top seeds."
This was Nagyova's second significant victory in two months, following her success against the American Monica Seles last month in the Evert Cup.
Martina Hingis, the world's No 1 player, had little trouble stopping the two-time Family Circle champion Conchita Martinez, of Spain. Others advancing to the quarter-finals were No 6 seed Patty Schnyder, of Switzerland, the No 7 Anna Kournikova, of Russia, and the No 11-ranked Natasha Zvereva, of Belarus. Germany's Andrea Glass was another unseeded player to go through.
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