Gavrilova shocks Sharapova, Monfils/Tsonga entertain in doubles, Miami Open Day 3 Recap
Esam Taha for Tennis Atlantic
Day 3 at the Miami Open featured a diverse offering of upsets, and none was bigger than 21 year old Daria Gavrilova’s shocking upset over world number 2 Maria Sharapova, a five time Miami Open finalist, who had never exited this early in the tournament before. The crowd was shocked and thrilled by the play of the young Russian with Australian ties, and here is a recap of that.
Daria Gavrilova d. Maria Sharapova 7-6(4) 6-3
The night session kicked off with an all-Russian duel between Maria Sharapova and her young up and coming compatriot Daria Gavrilova, in a match that would become a memorable first meeting for the pair. There was some intrigue to this matchup given the stark contrast between the 2 players. Sharapova standing at 6’2’’ tall towered over Daria at 5’5’’, the gulf of experience gap, and the contrasting strengths and weaknesses in their games, all recipes for an interesting tennis match…or of course a blowout as some had predicted. The result however, would be quite shocking.
At first it felt like it might indeed be a blowout as Maria powered her way to a love hold as if Daria was still back at the hotel, but Gavrilova quickly responded with a comfortable hold of her own much to the crowd’s delight, as they love themselves an underdog. The next game would set the tone for the match. Sharapova would eventually save breakpoints but not before Daria displayed some breath-taking defense coupled with sharp forehands to which the crowd loudly responded, at that point you got the sense that this might not be so routine for the veteran. Gavrilova was impressively able to hold with relative comfort despite her lack of a big serve, but that was mainly due to some absolutely blistering groundstrokes that made Maria uncomfortable. It felt like once the rally got going Daria had a good chance of winning the point. The break would eventually come for the young Russian as she took a 3-2 lead, bringing the crowd to their feet.
However, Sharapova wasn’t going to rollover that easily, with a little help from the netcord she would break right back to even things up at 3-3. Daria wasn’t done. Her incredible ability to get to seemingly every ball would frustrate Maria forcing her to go for even tougher angles and riskier shots. Gavrilova broke Maria back and produced another fist pump as she has been all night, all positive body language from the 21 year old. At this point Maria was starting to rack up the unforced errors, but you could argue that some of them were forced in the sense that Daria was forcing her to go for tougher shots. Sharapova would successfully serve to stay in the set forcing Gavrilova to close it out herself, always a tricky position for young players. The veteran showed why she is regarded as one of the clutch-iest players in tennis, getting the timely break and evening things up at 5-5. The set would go to a tiebreak, with the crowd fully engaged. Gavrilova would draw first blood as she earned a pair of mini-breaks and jumped to a 4-2 lead in the breaker. Daria would then hit an ace down the T. Even Sharapova couldn’t believe it and had to unsuccessfully challenge the call while the former produced a series of fist pumps. Maria was rattled, she would commit a couple of silly unforced errors to lose the tiebreak and the 1st set to Gavrilova, setting the Miami crowd into eruption.
Gavrilova would waste no time carrying the momentum over to the 2nd set while Maria’s level seemed to continue to decline as the match wore out. Sharapova would double fault giving Daria an opening, which she took full advantage of and broke right away to open the set. Gavrilova would consolidate the break as she continued to display excellent court coverage and sharp groundstrokes, she went up 4-2 at this point. Maria was truly on the ropes now.
The next game would be a tricky one for the youngster, she misses a routine overhead smash and follows it with a poorly executed drop shot to gift the game away to Sharapova, a game she desperately needed. However once again, Gavrilova would reset and go right after Maria the next game, quickly generating a triple break point. The next point summed up the match as Daria went for the jugular with a blistering DTL backhand winner to seal the break and bring the crowds out of their seats. She’s been in the same position in the 1st set, but this time Daria would show better composure to generate a match-point at 40-30. Maria known to go for her shots when the stakes are highest, would try to do the same here but this was not her night. The return sailed long as Daria jumps up in joy to complete the huge upset over the world number 2.
Prior to that thrilling match, a fun doubles match took place between Marin Draganja/Henri Kontinen, and the fan favorite doubles pairing of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils, who were both seeking to tune up their games after absences.
Marin Draganja/Henri Kontinen d. Gael Monfils/Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6 6-3 10-5
The French duo were both returning from injuries as they took the court for this one, Tsonga particularly a lengthy one, as they were teaming up in doubles to shake some of that rust off, and perhaps give themselves more practice for Davis Cup play or similar. Whenever Monfils or Tsonga is on court the crowd knows they’re in for a good show, thusly, court 1 was packed as fans were lining up in big numbers to catch a glimpse of the match. Marin and Henri, both doubles specialists, were the clear favorites going with their doubles experience, however the match would prove to be much tighter than expected.
From the start, you wouldn’t have been able to tell that the Frenchmen were returning from injury as their athleticism was on full display. Monfils was flying around and Tsonga wasn’t holding back, there was rust here and there from a technical perspective, but physically they were in good shape. The French duo would be pushed a few times on their serves midway through the set but they had no problem saving multiple break points. In contrast, Monfils and Tsonga would jump on the first break opportunity they get later in the set and convert to claim the 1st.
The rust started to show a bit in the 2nd. In terms of pure talent alone the French were clearly ahead of the Marin/Henri but the latter relied on their experience to force the former into errors. Tsonga especially would make several key errors which included a costly double fault on break point. Monfils always kept things positive, the attitude was generally light-hearted, as it was clear the French team intended to enjoy their time on court and have fun. Marin/Henri would not look back after grabbing the break, they wouldn’t face a single break point in the 2nd. They would carry that same momentum into the 3rd set super tie-break.
Tsonga would commit another double fault and a couple of errors while Marin/Henri kept their composure to finish the French. Regardless, Gael and Jo most likely achieved their primary purpose of participating in doubles, knock off some rust from the injury layoff, get a feel for the courts and heat during match-play, and of course put on an entertaining show for the crowd.
Steve Darcis d. Malek Jaziri 2-6 7-5 7-5
A couple of veterans faced off in the 1st round, Malek Jaziri would take on Steve Darcis for the right to face Giles Muller in the 2nd round. Jaziri hasn’t been able to get any serious momentum going this year, his best showing so far is making it to the 3rd round in the Australian Open. Meanwhile Darcis made a little run in Montpellier only to lose to Monfils in the quarters. At first it seemed like this was going to be a routine win for the Tunisian as he quickly took the 1st set 6-2 and was up a break on the 2nd, serving for the match at 5-3. Everything that could’ve went wrong for Jaziri at that point, did. It started with a couple of calls Jaziri didn’t like, after which he just seemed to completely go of the rails racking up unforced errors at an alarming rate. He would get broken at 5-3 and Darcis,, a qualifier, would win 4 consecutive games to take the 2nd. Meanwhile Jaziri also seemed to be affected by the scorching Miami sun as he continued to pile ice packs during changeovers, to the point where the umpire would issue a time violation.
Things seemed to follow a similar trend early in the 3rd as the wise veteran Darcis would make it 6 games in a row as he broke Jaziri again and jumped to a 2-1 lead. Jaziri however started to regain his composure at that point and was adding some pop to his forehands, he was also defending much better. The Tunisian would continue to hold but still couldn’t find that opening for the break. At 5-4, Steve had a chance to serve out the match, only for Malek to step it up one more notch and keep himself in the match, 5-5.
Just as you’d expect the pendulum to swing the other way, with one point changing everything. Malek constructed a point beautifully only to hit a routine volley just wide. That crowd gasped as they knew this one was going cost him, and surely he would get broken again. This time Darcis would keep his composure and comfortably serve out the match to conclude quite the rollercoaster of a 1st round clash. Jaziri was visibly disheartened, he knew he let one get away, but credit to Steve for outplaying Jaziri the 2nd half of the match.
Coric and Bellucci outlast their opponents, Kukushkin upsets Johnson in ATP round 1 singles action
young gun Borna Coric nearly fell Andreas Haider-Maurer, as he was 0-3 down in the third set, but the Croat would survive, as he faced a much tougher task against AHM than he had previously in their Indian Wells match. Haider-Maurer got off to a spirited start firing winners for a 6-1 lead, Coric would recover from the shock and break AHM in his opening service game in the second set, holding serve the rest of the way to force a third. In that third, Coric had to call the trainer 0-3 down, looking wasted in the heat but what the trainer did seemed to help him as he pulled it all the way back to 5-5, at which point AHM started to cramp, and though Coric couldn’t serve it out at 6-5, he had a major advantage in the third set tiebreak and got the job done.
Thomaz Bellucci also had to survive in advance in the late match against Lleyton Hewitt. The gritty former world number one refused to go away in a three hour match that went past midnight local time. Both players racked up a horrendous W/UE ratio as Bellucci was 39/71 in his 7-5 6-7 6-4 victory, compared to Hewitt’s 23/61 ratio. Hewitt was a miserable 3/15 on break points, and by the time the third set came both players seemed exhausted. Hewitt didn’t have as much pop as Bellucci did from the ground, and his serving also didn’t do him many favors, as with consistency lacking, the grinder struggled and went down 4-2 in the third. Bellucci would let him back in the match for 4-4 in the third, but would win the next two games from that point to finish the match off.
Mikhail Kukushkin demonstrated his good form had returned with a 6-4 3-6 6-2 victory over favored American Steve Johnson. He went 4/5 on break points and was superior overall to Stevie who posted 5 double faults.
Vasek Pospisil won 6-4 7-6 over the returning Juan Martin Del Potro. The tower of Tandil was rusty as expected, he put up just 8 winners compared to 25 errors in the match, and also had more double faults (7) than aces (6). He was rather passive throughout the match as his backhand was poor, and Pospisil, though he was shaky for parts, was able to escape in straights from 2-4 down in the second set, as he fought back and played a solid tiebreak.
Other men advancing into round 2 include Mikhail Youzhny 4-6 6-2 6-3 over Andrey Golubev, as the veteran recovered from a slow start, and qualifier Alejandro Falla who beat Michael Berrer 6-7 6-4 6-4 in a close contest. Teymuraz Gabashvili and Federico Delbonis both won 3 set matches, Gabashvili 0-6 7-6 6-3 over Pablo Andujar for his first win of the year at the ATP level, and Delbonis 7-6 3-6 7-5 over a slumping Jiri Vesely, who has been in awful form since his maiden ATP title in January. Young guns Andrey Rublev and Alex Zverev, played well in their matches. Rublev beat Pablo Carreno Busta 1-6 6-1 6-4 as he maintained his composure after a poor start, and Zverev survived the massive serves of Sam Groth 7-5 6-7 6-4, as he did well to play only one tiebreak.
Martin Klizan (6-3 6-4 over Paolo Lorenzi), Jurgen Melzer (7-6 6-4 over Ryan Harrison), and Alex Dolgopolov (6-4 6-1 over Ricardas Berankis) rolled in their matches. Jerzy Janowicz won yet again over Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-4 6-2, and Simone Bolelli drubbed a listless Marcos Baghdatis 6-2 6-2 in a minor upset.
Svitolina, Pliskova continue momentum in WTA singles
Elina Svitolina, a rising 20 year old Ukrainian, and Karolina Pliskova,a rising 23 year old Czech, were both winners and booked their spot in the third round on Thursday. Svitolina beat Bojana Jovanovski 6-3 7-6, and Pliskova beat Annika Beck 2-6 6-3 6-4, as both players struggled on serve in that match.
Agnieszka Radwanska (6-4 7-5 over Anna Schmiedlova), Venus Williams (6-3 6-2 over Aga’s sister Urszula), Caroline Wozniacki (6-0 6-1 over Madison Brengle), Andrea Petkovic (6-2 6-2 over Christina McHale), Ekaterina Makarova (6-1 6-3 over Karin Knapp), Carla Suarez Navarro (6-3 6-1 over Stefanie Voegele) , and Sam Stosur (6-1 3-6 6-0 over Pauline Parmentier) were all winning seeds in the second round on the WTA side.
Seeds Varvara Lepchenko (6-2 6-4 to Kaia Kanepi), Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (7-5 6-2 to Kristina Mladenovic), and 21 year old Caroline Garcia, who had her momentum halted with an opening match loss (6-3 7-6 to Kurumi Nara, a 23 year old), were not as lucky however as they were bounced in their opening matches.
The other round 2 winners on the day were 17 year old wild card Paula Badosa Gibert (6-1 7-5 over Saisai Zheng), Alize Cornet (6-4 6-1 over Elena Vesnina) and Irina-Camelia Begu (5-7 6-4 6-4 over Tereza Smitkova in one of the rare 3 setters on the WTA side on the day).
Jamie Murray/John Peers, Rodionova sisters lead doubles winners on the day
The doubles action got underway at the Miami Open on the outer courts, and John Peers and Jamie Murray got off to a good start 6-3 6-2 over Lukas Rosol and Dominic Thiem. They were joined on the mens doubles side as winners by Quisner (John Isner and Sam Querrey), who upset Rohan Bopanna/Daniel Nestor 6-3 7-6, Andre Begemann and Ernests Gulbis, who recovered from an atrocious start to topple David Marrero/Pablo Cuevas 1-6 6-4 10-7, Nicolas Almagro/Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, an all-Spanish pairing who beat the French pair of Gilles Simon/Adrian Mannarino 6-3 6-2, and Kevin Anderson/Jeremy Chardy, who upset Marcin Matkowski/Nenad Zimonjic 6-3 6-3.
In WTA doubles, the feisty pairing of Anastasia and Arina Rodionova beat Casey Dellacqua/Darija Jurak 6-3 7-6, German pairing Julia Goerges/Anna-Lena Groenefeld beat Magdalena Rybarikova/Saisai Zheng 7-6 4-6 10-8, Vera Dushevina and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat American pairing Abigail Spears and Raquel Kops-Jones 2-6 6-3 10-2 and Alla Kudryatseva and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat Klara Koukalova and Katerina Siniakova 6-2 6-0.
Andy Murray, Simona Halep, Rafa Nadal, Serena Williams, and the return of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are all highlights on day 4, along with Stan Wawrinka and Gael Monfils looking to return to form, and the return of Janko Tipsarevic to pro tennis, as he will play doubles with Novak Djokovic.