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Delray Beach teen Coco Gauff joins litany of top seeds bounced out of Miami Open

Coco Gauff has repeatedly stated her love for the Miami Open and Hard Rock Stadium, where she grew up attending Dolphins games. Thus far, that love has been unrequited for the Delray Beach teen.

The sixth-ranked Gauff served for the match at 5-3 of the second set but was unable to seal the deal in a grueling 7-6 (10-8), 5-7, 2-6 third-round loss to Russian Anastasia Potapova on a blistering Saturday afternoon. Gauff became the sixth victim of the top eight seeds to exit the draw, joining top-seed Iga Swiatek (rib injury), No. 4 Ons Jabeur, No. 5 Carolina Garcia, No. 7 Maria Sakkari and No. 8 Daria Kasatkina on the sidelines.

That leaves No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, the reigning Australian Open champion, and No. 3 Jessica Pegula of Boca Raton, for a potential on-paper meeting in the final. After a long wait for the 2-hour and 32-minute match involving Gauff, her doubles partner, to end, Pegula held up her end of the team by edging fellow American Danielle Collins, 6-1, 7-6 (6-0) to reach the Round of 16.

“I was pressuring [Collins] serve a lot in the first set, and I was frustrating her,’’ said Pegula, the No. 1 ranked American. “She played better in the second set. Lucky I was able to take it in two.”

With three-time Miami Open champion Victoria Azarenka sent packing 6-7 (3), 2-6, 6-4 by Poland’s Magda Linette, there will be a new champion crowned next Saturday.

This marked the fourth time in her hometown tournament Gauff hasn’t gone past the Round of 16.

“I think I need to figure out what three things I want to focus on in the match and then maybe go to those points where I feel at 5-3, I didn’t have anything that I was looking for in that game,’’ Gauff said. “Normally, I do have something. I think my mind just wasn’t all the way in today.”

Gauff won the sea-saw first set despite trailing 2-5 and converting just 2-of-10 break points (3-of-13 overall). The players exchanged breaks with double faults in their last two service games to force an error-filled tiebreaker finally won 10-8 by Gauff when a let cord at midcourt set up her trademark backhand.

However, an emotional Potapova, clawed back at 3-5 of the second set, by swinging for the lines, earning her the last four games to force the decisive set. Potapova, who turns 22 on Thursday, has clearly showed disdain for any of her Ukrainian opponents, but only mistreated Gauff by running the 19-year-old speedster side-to-side with pinpoint, rocket ground strokes.

“I think [my speed] should be used as more as a tool in a toolbox as a weapon,’’ Gauff said. “I think I have to change my mentality in the game about not relying on that too much, because sometimes I think I play a little bit passive because I know I can get to balls.”

Both players left the court for a 10-minute mandated heat break. When they returned it was all Potapova, achieving the critical break to go up 4-2, while screaming ‘Come on!’ She never looked back to earn her third victory over a Top 10 player.

“I still had belief in myself,’’ said Potapova, who won 59 percent of Gauff’s second serves. “In the third set I felt I had to go for my shots so I [rode] the momentum [after the heat break] and couldn’t wait to get back on court. … Coco was getting some balls, like insanely good. But I just felt like she got a little bit tired in the third set.”

While American hopes are focused on ninth seed Taylor Fritz, No. 16 Tommy Paul and No. 12 Frances Tiafoe, to make a deep run here, Atlanta’s Chris Eubanks, 27, ranked 119, and 55th-ranked Mackie McDonald of Piedmont, Calif., are through to the third round. The 6-7 Eubanks, who traveled the world as a hitting partner with mentor Donald Young during his high school years, pounded 11 aces to prevail 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 over 20th-ranked Croatian Borna Coric.

“I think now I’m finally starting to find it,” said Eubanks, 27, into his first third round of a Masters 1000 tournament. “Hopefully, I can ride this momentum throughout the rest of the year.”

McDonald, 26, who downed an injured Rafael Nadal, then No. 2, in the second round of the Australian Open, eliminated former No. 6 (in 2022) Matteo Berrettini in two tiebreakers. The 25-year-old Italian is now ranked 23rd after a litany of injures and COVID.

“He plays really well on hard courts; he’s fast and tricky,’’ said Berrettini, a Wimbledon finalist in 2021.

Second-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas gave his sore right shoulder another day’s rest when 36-year-old Frenchman Richard Gasquet withdrew with an ankle injury. The lanky Greek, who received a first-round bye, hasn’t hit a ball yet and is into the third round, where he will be tested against Chilean qualifier Cristian Garin, ranked 17th in 2021 with five titles all on clay, who took out No. 27 Sebastian Baez.

No. 5 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada advanced and will play Francisco Cerundolo, who enjoyed a career-break through in a semifinal run here last year, after the Argentine defeated American lucky loser Aleksander Kovacevic 6-4, 6-4. Cerundolo, who was ranked 115th before that tournament has since soared to 31st.