World No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki and rising star Naomi Osaka became early round casualties while veteran Venus Williams survived a scare to book her third round spot at the Miami Open on Friday.
Wozniacki slumped to a shock 0-6, 6-4, 6-4 defeat to Monica Puig of Puerto Rico while Osaka’s bid for the “Sunshine Double” of Indian Wells and Miami Open titles ended with a 6-4, 6-2 loss to fourth seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina.
The 24-year-old Puig compared her win over reigning Australian Open champion Wozniacki to her gold medal triumph at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“It felt like Rio all over again,” Puig said. “I have been waiting for this and to finally start finding myself again.”
The 27-year-old Wozniacki appeared to be headed to an easy victory after winning the first set in less than 30 minutes before the wheels fell off.
World number 82 Puig clinched the win with a blistering forehand winner on the second match point.
“I just tried to stay positive,” she said. “I didn’t think I played that poorly in the first set. She’s a great player so I had to stay focused and keep fighting.”
Puig became the first Puerto Rican athlete to win gold in any sport at the Olympics when she beat Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the final.
It was another disappointing exit for Wozniacki, who finally silenced her critics earlier this year with her maiden Grand Slam title in Melbourne, where she defeated Simona Halep in the final.
Wozniacki drops to 17-5 on the season as she has now crashed out of her last two tournaments in stunning fashion. In her most recent WTA event in Indian Wells, Wozniacki was upset in the round of 16 by Russian dynamo Daria Kasatkina.
Japan’s Osaka came into the second-round match against Svitolina on an eight-match winning streak that included her dream run to the Indian Wells title and a first-round triumph here over 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams.
But it was Svitolina who emerged with a victory thanks to a solid service performance that saw her win nearly 80 percent of points on her first serve.
– Four service breaks –
Svitolina saved five of six break points she faced and broke Osaka four times en route to the victory in an hour and 23 minutes.
Osaka saved two match points before holding for 5-2 in the second set, but she was unable to convert three break points in the next game as Svitolina sealed the win.
“It was challenging. I’m very happy the way I handled this match today and the way I was playing,” Svitolina said.
In other second-round action on Friday, seven-time Grand Slam champion Williams stormed back from deficits in each set to defeat world number 88 Natalia Vikhlyantseva 7-5, 6-4.
The 37-year-old American improved to 7-3 on the season as she clinched the victory on the second match point when the 21-year-old Russian smacked a forehand wide.
Williams trailed 2-5 in the first set but won five straight games to take the opener. She also rallied in the second set, falling behind 0-3 before winning six of the next seven for the victory.
Ninth-seeded Czech Petra Kvitova defeated 19-year-old Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.