The numbers were firmly in Maria Sharapova’s favor when she took on Daria Gavrilova in the second round of the Miami Open.
Sharapova – the five-time grand slam winner who has long been labeled the world’s richest female athlete – had lost prior to the fourth round at the prestigious event once. And that came on her debut as a 15-year-old in 2003.
Sharapova had since made five finals in Miami and last year was only beaten by the tournament’s most successful player, Serena Williams.
But all that didn’t matter to the 97th-ranked Gavrilova, who stunned Russia’s Sharapova 7-6 6-3 on Thursday in Miami.
“I’m expected to win,” Sharapova told reporters. “But I think that’s one of the reasons why we play the matches. You still have to go out and win no matter if you are the favorite. I didn’t.
“She runs a lot of balls down. I was committing a lot of errors off of those balls and not really staying patient. Just going for too many winners maybe, not moving forward enough.”
When Sharapova sent a forehand wide on match point, it also marked her earliest departure from one of the tour’s four Premier Mandatory events since 2010. Further the last time she fell to a player ranked outside the top 95 on a hard court came at Canada’s Rogers Cup four years ago.
Not that Gavrilova, who turned 21 in early March, is just any journeywoman.
She was once the world’s top-ranked junior, her career derailed last year when she missed about six months of the season recovering from a serious knee injury.
Gavrilova – who will soon be representing Australia full time after switching her nationality from Russian – said she’d been hoping to beat Sharapova for about a decade.
“I have been dreaming about beating Maria since I was probably 12 when I saw her win Wimbledon, when she beat Serena,” Gavrilova told reporters. “I was like, ‘Oh, I really want to play her and beat her.’ I was probably visualizing beating her since I was 12, yeah.”
Sharapova can now turn her attentions to clay, her most productive surface.
She’ll spearhead Russia’s bid to make the Fed Cup final when she leads the side against Germany in mid-April in her former hometown of Sochi.