Slowed by injury and illness this year, Emma Raducanu returned to action on Thursday and beat Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic 6-2, 6-3 in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.
It was the first match since January for Raducanu, the 2021 U.S. Open champion who is unseeded at Indian Wells. The 20-year-old British star played in just two events early this year — at Auckland, New Zealand, and the Australian Open — before she dealt with an ankle injury and tonsillitis.
Raducanu, now ranked 77th in the world, picked on Kovinic’s second serve, winning 21 of 29 points (72.4 percent).
“It was a good match for me to get through,” Raducanu said. “I think that Danka is an extremely difficult opponent. I was expecting (a battle) going into today, and I’m just glad to get through.”
Raducanu’s next opponent will be 20th-seeded Magda Linette, a Polish player who reached the Australian Open semifinals this year.
The BNP Paribas Open’s top 32 seeds — including No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland, No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, No. 3 Jessica Pegula of the United States and No. 4 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia — received first-round byes.
Russian qualifier Varvara Gracheva, who reached the final in Austin, Texas, last week, rolled to a 6-2, 6-2 win over Belgian qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure in the opening round at Indian Wells. Gracheva served no aces, but she faced just two points on her serve and saved both.
Other first-round winners included the United States’ Bernarda Pera and Madison Brengle, Hungary’s Dalma Galfi, Germany’s Tatjana Maria, Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz and the Czech Republic trio of Katerina Siniakova, Karolina Muchova and Marketa Vondrousova.
The final five matches of the night saw Poland’s Magdalena Frech advance along with four U.S. players: Peyton Stearns, Claire Liu, Sofia Kenin and Emma Navarro.
–Field Level Media
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