Miami | Swiatek and Gauff felled as Rybakina and Pegula take over title favourite’s mantle

Both Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff were knocked out of the Last 16 at the Miami Open presented by Itaú on Monday, leaving Elena Rybakina and Jessica Pegula as the remaining top seeds and favourites for the WTA 1000 title at the weekend.

Disappointed, for sure, because I thought I was going to play better here in Miami. But she played an amazing match, and, for sure, she was the better player out there today. Her serve, I had a hard time reading it. I got a little bit tense when I couldn't return well. Iga Swiatek

Swiatek’s hopes of completing the Sunshine Double for a second time were dashed by an outstanding display of hitting by Ekaterina Alexandrova, the 14th seed from Russia, who dispatched the 22-year old Pole, 6-4 6-2, after an hour and 24 minutes.

“Second quarter-final here, second year in a row,” Alexandrova said afterwards. “Beating Iga after so many tries, and she’s number one. It’s the first time I beat number one. All three things are very special to me.

“I think, when it goes in, its very good, but, sometimes, it’s not working. But today it worked.”

it was a stunning performance by the 29-year old World No 16, whose powerful game made its mark from the start when she broke Swiatek in the opening game by attacking the top seed’s 2nd-serve, showing no fear.

“We played quite a few times before and, sometimes, it was three sets,” Alexandrova said. ‘I think, sometimes, I was quite close to it, but still far away. Winning against her, of course, it feels great. I’m not sure if it’s a surprise or not, but I just worked quite hard on the court, and it paid off.”

Coming off wins over Donna Vekic and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Alexandrova’s first serve and forehand flummoxed Swiatek, who had no answers for her placement, power and precision.

Swiatek held a break point in the 6th game, but was unable to convert it, and this proved to be the only chance she had in the whole match.

She had come from a set down to defeat 26th seed Linda Noskova 24 hours earlier, but struggled to find any traction on Monday night, and, despite getting 71% of her first serves in, Swiatek was broken 3 times in the match.

Alexandrova closed out the 49-minute opening set with a decisive love hold, striking 17 winners to 17 unforced errors, while Swiatek struck 8 winners to 16 miscues.

“Just trying to go more inside the court, trying to hit everything in front of you, so the opponent doesn’t have as much time,” Alexandrova added.

That one break was all that Alexandrova needed to serve out the first set, and she accelerated to even greater heights in the second, leaving a helpless Swiatek in her wake as the Russian barely missed a shot, crunching return winners off the Pole’s first-serve, and playing some of the best tennis of her career.

Matched by huge serving, Alexandrova created a combination that proved too much for Swiatek to handle on this occasion, and the Russian won 4 games on the trot to race out to a 5-1 lead.

Although the World No 1 held her serve one more time, it counted for little, as Alexandrova easily closed out the match to claim her upset win.

“Disappointed, for sure, because I thought I was going to play better here in Miami,” Swiatek said, having come off her win at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells last week. “But she played an amazing match, and, for sure, she was the better player out there today.

“Her serve, I had a hard time reading it. I got a little bit tense when I couldn’t return well.”

Alexandrova records her 13th career win over a Top 10 opponent, and finished the match with 31 winners to 27 unforced errors, while Swiatek hit just 11 winners to her total of 27 unforced errors.


Jessica Pegula defeated Emma Navarro to make the quarter-finals in Miami

© Al Bello/Getty Images

A quarter-finalist here last year, Alexandrova will face No 5 Jessica Pegula on Wednesday, who advanced to her 3rd consecutive Miami Last 8 appearance by defeating 20th-seeded Emma Navarro, 7-6(1) 6-3.

The 2-time semi-finalist needed an hour and 29 minutes to dispatch her fellow American, coming from 1-4 down in the first set to score her first Top 20 win of the season in her first-ever meeting against the newly-minted World No 20, who broke that barrier after reaching the quarters at Indian Wells last week.

Navarro and Pegula were 2 of 5 Americans to reach the Last 16, the most since 2003, and Pegula joins Danielle Collins in reaching the quarter-finals.

To get to a first-set tiebreak, Pegula won 3 straight games and rebounded with aplomb after failing to serve out the set at 6-5.

Pegula has now won 9 of the last 10 matches in which she has played at least one tiebreak.


Caroline Garcia upset 3rd-seeded Coco Gauff to set up a Last 8 encounter with Danielle Collins

© Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Elsewhere, World No 23 Caroline Garcia upset Coco Gauff, the 3rd seed, 6-3 1-6 6-2, her serve clicking early in her battle against the 20-year old American.

“It’s definitely a great match, and great win for me,” Garcia said afterwards. “Last couple of months have not been easy, and definitely today, following the match of yesterday, it means a lot. It was some great tennis.”

Garcia moved into the Miami quarter-finals for the first time in her career with a gritty performance, ousting the home favourite after an hour and 43 minutes of play, and the Frenchwoman now leads Gauff 3-2 in their head-to-head, having won their last 3 meetings.

“We had some good battles in the past, and I always try to go as much as I can with confidence and conviction in my shots,” Garcia said afterwards. “To have a [previously] tied record with Coco gives me confidence that I have to go for it. […] I tried to take as much time away as I can against her.”

This was Garcia’s first win over a Top 10 player since the end of 2022, when she notched up 4 on her way to the title at the WTA Finals.

The Frenchwoman did not face a break point in the opener before Gauff raised her game in the second and levelled at a set apiece.

In the first game of the third, Garcia fended off 4 break points to hold serve, and broke to love to take a 2-0 lead that she did not relinquish.

“I stayed positive and optimistic about my serve,” Garcia said about the 5 break points she saved. “The first game of the third set was quite important for me and, maybe, for her also.

“I got a little bit lucky because my forehand was catching the line but, also, I went for it, so maybe it’s my reward.”


Danielle Collins saw off Sorana Cirstea of Romania make her 3rd career Miami Open quarter-final

© Al Bello/Getty Images

For a spot in the semi-finals, next up for Garcia is another American, Danielle Collins, a former Top 10 player who beat Sorana Cirstea from Romania, 6-3 6-2.

Collins, the 2022 Australian Open finalist, who has reached her 3rd career Miami Open quarter-final, and is currently ranked 53, needed an hour and 29 minutes to dismiss Cirstea, a semi-finalist here last year.

The American, who erased all 3 of the break points she faced on Monday, has dominated her head-to-head with Garcia, having won all 3 of their previous meetings in straight sets, most recently at San Diego last year.

World No 4 Elena Rybakina powered past another American, Madison Keys, the No 17 seed, 6-3 7-5, and will next meet a well-rested Maria Sakkari after the Greek 8th seed got a walkover from Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya, who withdrew ahead of their 4th-round match due to health issues.

Kalinskaya, the 22nd seed, arrived in Miami following a 3rd-round defeat at Indian Wells, where a stomach ailment forced her to miss a few days of practice.

The 25-year-old reached the Last 16 in Miami without dropping a set in wins over China’s Wang Xiyu and Latvian 9th seed Jelena Ostapenko.

“I’m so sorry I was really looking forward to playing today, but unfortunately my health doesn’t allow me,” Kalinskaya said. “Thank you for your support.”

Meanwhile, Rybakina won more than 80% of her first-serve opportunities and converted 3 of her 8 break points during the 84-minute encounter.

“Really happy with my performance today,” Kazakhstan’s Rybakina said in her on-court interview. “It was a tough one.

“With Madison, it’s always difficult matches, and she’s an aggressive player so I knew I needed to be ready for every point, and especially on the return.”

Rybakina’s compatriot Yulia Putintseva also continued a stellar month, coming from 2-4 down in the second set to upset No 32 seed Anhelina Kalinina from Ukraine, 6-4 7-6(5).

The World No 79, who also saved 2 set points in the second set, deployed deft touch and careful point construction to handle the windy conditions.

Putintseva, who is fresh off a 4th-round run at Indian Wells, advanced to her 5th career quarter-final at WTA 1000 level or above following Roland Garros in 2016 and 2018, the US Open 2020, Rome 2020 and Toronto 2022.


Victoria Azarenka had too much fire-power for Katie Boulter in the Last 16 of the Miami Open at the Hard Rock Stadium on Monday

© Al Bello/Getty Images

To make her first WTA 1000 semi-final, though, Putintseva must get past 3-time Miami Open champion Victoria Azarenka, after the No 27 seed from Belarus took down Britain’s Katie Boulter, the No 24 seed, 7-5 6-1, in an hour and 47 minutes on Monday.

In the opening set, Azarenka missed 3 set points at 5-2, and 2 more at 5-4, as last month’s San Diego champion Boulter made a come-back, but, at 6-5, the Belarusian converted her 6th set point to take the one-set lead, and then romped through the second.

The former World No 1 is into the Miami quarter-finals for the 6th time, but it is her first trip that deep at this event since a semi-final run in 2018.

Azarenka won this title in 2009, 2011 and 2016, while, in 2016, she pulled off the Sunshine Double by winning Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back.

She leads Putintseva 2-0 in their head-to-head, posting down-to-the wire wins at the 2021 Grampians Trophy in Melbourne and 2022 Doha.

Boulter had broken new ground with a win over Beatriz Haddad Maia in the previous round to reach the Last 16 for the first time, but she was ground down by her veteran opponent, and leaves in the knowledge that her ranking will rise to the mid-20s.


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