Shocks continued at the Miami Open Presented by Itaú on Saturday, with the elimination of Coco Gauff, Beatrice Haddad Maia and Victoria Azarenka, while Jessica Pegula, Elena Rybakina, Magda Linette and Zheng Qinwen all advanced to the Round of 16.
I think I have to change my mentality in the game about not relying on that too much, because I think sometimes I play a little bit too passive because I know I can get to balls. My mind just wasn't all the way in today. Coco Gauff
Gauff, a local favourite seeded 6, tumbled out to Russia’s Anastasia Potapova, 6-7(8) 7-5 6-2, who has been making waves of late, drawing criticism for wearing a Spartak Moscow shirt on court at Indian Wells, for which she received an official warning from the WTA.
The No 27 seed, though, produced some of her best tennis to see off the 19-year old American, and set up a meeting with China’s Zheng Qinwen.
Potapova mounted a stout defence to fend off 10 of 13 break points, and grinned widely when she fired down an un-returnable serve to secure the win.
Up 5-2 in the first set, it looked as though it might be an easy day for Potapova, but Gauff turned the tables when she converted break point chances in the 9th and 11th games, and then closed out the tiebreak with a lethal backhand.
Leading by a set and going up 5-3 in the second, things unravelled for the World No 6 as Potapova regained her composure and pummelled her opponent with her powerful forehand to level proceedings, before romping through the decider, in which she dropped just one first-serve point as she won the final 5 games.
“It was a very tough match,” Potapova said. “It was very physical, and it was very hot out there.
“I was trying to stay cool, and just fight for every point and [not] think about the score, especially in the second set.
“I think I just let it go, and I started to focus on my tennis, and going for my shots, and not thinking what she is going to do,” the 21-year old added after gaining her first win over the American in 3 attempts. “I’m really happy to be in the fourth round for the first time; it’s a dream that really came true.
“Coco is an unbelievable athlete and she has very good fitness. I’m really surprised that I could stay at the same level until the end.”
Gauff won just 41% of her second serves and converted only 3 of her 13 break chances, while Potapova took 10 of the last 12 games to win the match after 2 hours and 32 minutes on court.
Potapova next faces China’s Zheng, the No 23 seed, who upset Liudmilla Samsonova, the 14th seed from Russia, 5-7 7-6(5) 6-3.
After the match, Gauff was critical of her performance, saying: “I think I have to change my mentality in the game about not relying on that too much, because I think sometimes I play a little bit too passive because I know I can get to balls.
“My mind just wasn’t all the way in today.”
With the clay swing set to begin next month, Gauff looked ahead at her press conference later.
“I definitely think the game does simplify a little bit. I have a clearer picture of how I want to play on that surface,” Gauff said. “I definitely think, physically, usually, those are the players that are doing well on clay, so I think that’s why it suits me a lot.”
She reached the 3rd-round at last year’s Madrid Open as well as the Italian Open before making her maiden Grand Slam final at the French Open, where she lost to World No 1 Iga Swiatek in straight sets.
“Taking in what I’ve done on the hard court season, I think, will help me into the clay season because last year, I didn’t have a great start, and that clay season turned it around,” she said. “Even though this tournament didn’t go how I wanted, I would say I had a decent start to the year. I’m hoping I can have an even better clay season than last year.
“I have Billie Jean King Cup. Then switching to clay. I guess we’ll focus on that. I’m going to use BJK Cup to figure out what I need to do on the hard court to get ready for the hard court season after Wimbledon,” she added.
In a battle of Americans, No 3 Jessica Pegula held off 30th-seeded Danielle Collins, 6-1 7-6(0), losing only 8 points on her first serve, saving just 2 break chances while breaking serve 3 times in the first set, and winning 12 of the last 14 points of the match, including a bagel breaker to take it.
She raced to a one-set lead in just 29 minutes, but Collins kept it much closer in the second, where there were no break points for either player through 6-5.
“I thought it was a really solid match,” Pegula said. “I kind of was playing a pretty high level to start.
“Then [Collins] definitely started playing better in the second set, which I expected her to because she’s a really great player. I was happy I was able to close that out in a tiebreak.”
Looking forward to her next match against Linette, Pegula said that they are pretty good friends.
“She had a great win today. She is playing well this year. She had some good wins this year. So it’s definitely going to be tough. We know each other’s games very, very well.,” she said.
“I was so happy for her in Australia. … To see her break through at a Slam, I thought it was so nice because I think it was just so well-deserved to someone like her who is a good person, she works hard, stays in her world.
“There’s no drama with her. She just comes to work and works. To see her getting rewarded like that I thought was really nice.”
Linette had produced one of the upsets of the day by beating former World No 1 Azarenka for the first time in 3 tries at the Miami Open to reach the Last 16 for the first time in her career with a streaky 7-6(3) 2-6 6-4 win over the 14th-seeded Belarusian.
The Pole had not taken a set off of Azarenka in their 2 prior meetings, including a 3rd-round clash at this very event in 2016, when Azarenka went on to win one of her 3 Miami titles.
Overcoming Azarenka on Saturday in 2 hours and 27 minutes, Linette converted 5 of her 8 break points in the process.
Linette, the Polish No 2 behind top-ranked Swiatek, continues a breakthrough 2023 season after the 31-year-old reached her first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open earlier this year, and now sits at a career-high ranking of World No 19.
She had to survive a topsy-turvy clash with Azarenka, who served for the first set at 5-4, but she pulled back on serve and forced a tiebreak, where she grabbed the decisive mini-break at 4-3 with a backhand winner down the line.
After Linette went ahead 2-0 in the second, Azarenka rediscovered some of her peak Miami Open form, which led her to titles in 2009, 2011 and 2016, and she reeled off 8 games in a row to sweep the set and take a 2-0 lead in the third.
Linette, though, had the final say, breaking the former champion in her next two service games on the way to a 5-4 lead, and she served for the match, sliding back from 40-0 to deuce, but then converted her 4th match point to grab her 4th Top 20 win of the year.
Elsewhere, No 10 seed Rybakina from Kazakstan had to battle to get past Paula Badosa, the No 21 seed from Spain, 3-6 7-5 6-3, saving a match point on serve at 4-5 in the second set.
After being broken 4 times in the first set, Rybakina held her serve in all but one game in the remainder of the contest, and confidently closed out victory in 2 hours and 31 minutes.
The Indian Wells champion has now won her last 10 matches.
“It didn’t start well in the first set but, in the end, I just found some energy,” Rybakina said. “I was trying to push more on the serve, and started to move better on the court.
“It was a really tough battle. I was trying to focus on every point because the first set didn’t go my way, but it was just a few mistakes here and there. Overall, I played well. Paula was serving well. Just happy that I was able to manage in three sets.”
Rybakina fired 60 winners en route to her come-back win, nearly four times the total for Badosa, who finished with 16.
The Russian-born Kazakh’s next challenge is Elise Mertens from Belgium, who upset Croatia’s Petra Martic, the 29th seed, in a match than ran well past 1am, 6-4 6-3.
Meanwhile, the 24th seed from Latvia, Ostapenko, pulled off an upset of her own by dispatching Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia, the 12th seed, 6-2 4-6 6-3.
The fiery Latvian complained a number of times about the boisterous crowd, with many cheering loudly for the Brazilian, and afterwards blasted the audience for being ‘disrespectful’, prompting some jeering from the stands.
“I’m really happy today to win,” she said. “Of course the crowd was mostly against me. A little bit disrespectful, but thanks guys for those who were supporting me.
“I felt like some moments I didn’t play aggressively because the ball really stops here,” Ostapenko added. “You always really have to go for the ball.
“I’m just really glad I won it because I really wanted to win. The crowd doesn’t know [it, but] if they are against me, I play even better.”
Her next opponent, Martina Trevisan, the 25th seed from Italy, eventually found her way past American Claire Liu, 6-4 5-7 6-4 after 3 hours 17 minutes on court.