Maria Sharapova's quest for her first Miami Open title will have to wait another year. The No. 2-ranked player is out of the Miami Open after losing 7-6, 6-3 to No. 97 Daria Gavrilova in the second round on Thursday night. It was the first time Sharapova lost in her opening match in Miami since she played the tournament for the first time in 2003. The defeat means Simona Halep has a chance to overtake Sharapova at No. 2 in the rankings depending on her Miami results.
Gavrilova, 21, came into the match on the heels of cracking the Top 100 for the first time last week, and the win was her fourth WTA main draw victory of the season. A former junior No. 1 in 2010, Gavrilova gained traction in February when she won back-to-back $50K ITF events in Australia. Two weeks ago she took a set off No. 3 Halep at the BNP Paribas Open. Gavrilova took the court Thursday night full of energy and confidence and it showed from the very first point.
As well as the young Russian played (Gavrilova is in the process of getting her Australian citizenship), Sharapova was flat throughout the match. She hit 34 unforced errors and gifted Gavrilova a key point in the first set tiebreaker that could have turned the match around. Trailing by a break throughout the first set, Sharapova broke Gavrilova as the youngster tried to serve for the set at 5-4. Sharapova trailed again in the tiebreaker but looked in good position to come back from a mini-break down at 4-5 when she earned a short forehand drive volley that she put into the net, letting Gavrilova off the hook.
The second set was similar to the first. Again Gavrilova raced out to an early break lead and again Sharapova was able to get it back on serve at 3-4. This time Gavrilova took no chances. She continued to attack Sharapova off the ground, mixing up her pace and spin to pull Sharapova wide into the corners and open up the court. She also played some gritty defense to keep herself in points and force the big-hitting Russian to hit one extra ball. Gavrilova played a fantastic return game to immediately get the break back and then served out the biggest win of her career. In sum, Gavrilova hit 10 winners to 28 unforced errors. Sharapova countered with 18 winners and 34 unforced errors.
Sharapova took the court with her upper left thigh heavily strapped, and her movement into and out of the corners looked a step slow. All said, it was a disappointing North American hard court swing for Sharapova. She lost in the fourth round at Indian Wells to Flavia Pennetta and followed it with a poor performance on Thursday in Miami.
Gavrilova will play Japan's Kurumi Nara in the third round after Nara upset No. 25 seed Caroline Garcia.