Emma Raducanu played some of her best tennis since the US Open as she came through a tricky opening match at Indian Wells, overcoming the former world No4 Caroline Garcia in three see-sawing sets.
If the quality of the match was less than brilliant overall, there was at least the bonus of a super-slick opening set from Raducanu, who looked briefly back to her best as she needed only 28 minutes to inflict a 6-1 “breadstick”.
Raducanu rather faded in the second set, apparently losing her gameplan, but then rediscovered her poised in the third to complete a 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 victory in 1hr 32mins.
It wasn’t pretty at times, with Garcia playing a roll-the-dice style of tennis. The Frenchwoman – who was famously tipped as a future world No1 by Andy Murray while she was only 17 – chalked up the occasional blinding winner amid a steady stream of unforced errors. But it was a victory, and Raducanu has had precious few of those since New York. This was her only the fourth win of her entire career on the WTA Tour, and the second of 2022.
“It’s amazing to be back and I am so happy to have just got my first win in the desert here,” said Raducanu. “It could have gone either way. She plays extremely powerful and fast. I had a chance to go 2-0 up in the second set, but as soon as I let up, my racket speed dropped and my ball speed dropped. She climbed on it straight away.
“I knew I had to make some adjustments in the third set. I’m really happy that I was able to work that out in the match and come through a tough one. The support – as soon as I came out and I was warming up and hitting volleys I heard the support after my name and I was really grateful.”
Meanwhile, Andy Murray chiselled out his 700th victory on the ATP tour, as he came back from a set down to overcome the fleet-footed Japanese player Taro Daniel.
Murray and Daniel have been circling each other all season, having now met three times in seven weeks, but this was the first of those matches to be truly competitive.
Murray made a sluggish start, admitting afterwards that he had felt uncomfortable in the breezy conditions at Indian Wells. Within just 28 minutes, he had dropped the first set by an alarming 6-1 scoreline.
But that was the cue for a dramatic turnaround, as Murray suddenly decided that he needed to commit to his shots more courageously. He began to bully the ball with his forehand in the second set, which was almost as one-sided in the other direction.
The decider then became much more cagey, with both players reluctant to risk too much, and the rallies becoming increasingly lengthy. To Murray’s credit, though, he looked the stronger down the home straight, and eventually scored a fifth break of serve to complete his 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 win.
After the match, Murray was asked about his 700th win – which he had identified last year as a target – by Amazon Prime pundit Greg Rusedski.
“It means a lot,” replied Murray, who – remarkably – has totted up 37 of those victories since undergoing the “resurfacing” operation that left him with a metal hip. “With everything that has been going on the last few years, it has not been easy to get there. It’s a great achievement. Not loads of guys have been able to do that. I am really happy about it.”