Miami: World number two Maria Sharapova was knocked out in her opening match at the Miami Open hardcourt tennis tournament on Thursday, shocked 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 by 97th-ranked Daria Gavrilova.
Russia's Gavrilova, who received a wild card into the main draw, needed one hour and 49 minutes to fashion the biggest upset so far in the combined WTA and ATP Masters tournament, which Sharapova has never won despite five trips to the final. The defeat marked five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova's worst in the event since she lost in the first round on her debut in 2003.
Maria Sharapova. Pic/ AFP
The loss to an opponent who only broke into the top 100 in the world rankings on Monday puts Sharapova on the back foot with her early hardcourt season now history and a title defence on clay in Stuttgart coming up in a month. The second-seeded Russian lost the opening set after nearly an hour and quickly found herself trailing the former junior world number one 4-1 in the second.
Sharapova clawed a break back but was then broken to love as Gavrilova set herself up for the win with a 5-3 lead. She calmly closed out the biggest win of her career on her first match point. Gavrilova lives and trains in Australia, where she is coached with funding from the Australian federation and is pursuing Australian citizenship. Sharapova has lived most of her life in the United States, but retains her Russian citizenship.
The triumph was Gavrilova's first against a top-10 player after four prior chances. She had never before beaten anyone ranked higher than 35th. Remaining women's seeds fared better, with six of the top 16 making it through to the third round. Number four Caroline Wozniacki lost just one game in a 6-0, 6-1 hammering of Madison Brengle, while Polish seventh seed Agnieszka Radwanska defeated Anna Schmiedlova 6-4, 7-5.
Eighth-seeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova, German ninth seed Andrea Petkovic, 12th-seeded Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro, number 15 Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic and 16th-seeded Venus Williams all advanced. Williams, playing her first match since February 27, defeated Radwanska's younger sister Urszula 6-3, 6-2 to set up a meeting with Australian Sam Stosur.
In men's play, Canadian Vasek Pospisil spoiled Juan Martin del Potro's return from injury with a 6-4, 7-6 (9/7) first-round win over the former US Open champion. Argentina's del Potro, a clear fan favorite, showed the rust after months of left wrist injury rehab in a contest lasting a shade under two hours. The former world number four, who has slumped to 616 in the rankings, double-faulted on a set point which would have levelled the contest at a set each. Moments later he saved a match point with an ace, but finally succumbed with a service return long.
- Tennis without pain -
Del Potro, who had come back from right wrist surgery in 2010, underwent surgery on his left wrist last March. He finished the 2014 season outside the top 100 for the first time since 2005 after contesting just four tournaments during the year. Del Potro made an aborted comeback attempt in January before pulling out of the Australian Open because of pain in the wrist and underwent a second surgery two months ago. Despite the defeat, he said he believes he's heading in the right direction.
"I don't feel frustrated, I have to take the positive things on my comeback," del Potro said. "It doesn't matter the score for now ... I just wanted to play tennis and without pain." Pospisil, 24 and ranked 60th in the world, fired 35 winners, converting two of his three break opportunities. Del Potro, who hit 25 unforced errors, managed to convert just one of his break point chances.