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Emma Raducanu starts Indian Wells campaign with confidence-boosting win

Emma Raducanu looks on - Emma Raducanu starts Indian Wells campaign with confidence-boosting win
Emma Raducanu cruised into the second round - Getty Images /Clive Brunskill

Emma Raducanu began her latest quest for consistency in positive fashion after getting her Indian Wells campaign off to a winning start.

Her 6-2, 6-3 victory over Spain’s Rebeka Masarova was not as straightforward as it should have been, but these are solid foundations on which to build.

It was here last year where Raducanu strung together a flurry of wins to reach the fourth round – achieving her best run of 2023 – and she tapped into that memory archive to set up a second-round meeting with the 30th seed Dayana Yastremska.

Earlier in the week, Raducanu claimed she was more focused on her performance rather than her results following her eight-month lay-off from wrist and ankle surgery. On this evidence, there is a feeling she will be more pleased with the latter.

This was a duel between two players low on confidence – both splattered unforced errors across the court – and there was no real weapon in either player’s locker. A flurry of double faults from Raducanu – she coughed up eight in total – kept the opening exchanges remotely competitive, although the Briton was far more aggressive and assured in her shotmaking than her opponent.

Despite struggling for rhythm on her serve in the Californian sun, she did, for the most part, show encouraging signs against the qualifier ranked 96th in the world. Her ball-striking was on the money, as were her plethora of drop shots that often sent Masarova into a tailspin.

“This is one of the trickiest tournaments, conditions-wise, to play because it varies so much between day, night, hour, sun, placement – everything – so I think I dealt with that really well,” Raducanu told Sky Sports.

She made amends for her rusty first serve by producing some flashes of brilliance that suggest she is tracking well after her three-week training block at the National Tennis Centre in south-west London after falling at the first hurdle in Doha last month.

After flying into a 3-0 lead, Raducanu interchanged some big hitting strokes with a cute drop shot before executing a beautiful top-spin lob as she re-established a double-break lead and closed out the opening set. She consolidated on another early break at the start of the second set, racing into another 3-0 lead in a set that was almost a carbon copy of the first.

After saving three break points in consecutive service games, the 21-year-old took the sting out of a fiery rally with a big looping forehand, before changing direction by sending down a searing backhand. But for all her fine work, she squandered another double-break lead as Masarova momentarily changed her strategy, but it was Raducanu who shone in the pressure points.

At 3-2 up in the second, she held her service game by sending a zippy forehand which angled Masarova off the court.

It was a decisive moment that gave her the platform to close out proceedings, even if she did require four match points to get over the finish line to record, rather fittingly, her fourth win of the year.

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