Indian Wells: Emma Raducanu beats Danka Kovinic as Jack Draper sets up Dan Evans clash

Emma Raducanu hits a serves against Danka Kovinic at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells
Emma Raducanu won in her first match since losing to Coco Gauff at the Australian Open in mid-January

Britain’s Emma Raducanu overcame a build-up disrupted by injury and illness to earn a gutsy first-round win at the prestigious Indian Wells event.

Raducanu, 20, was unsure she would be fit enough to play because of a recurring wrist injury, but won 6-2 6-3 against Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic.

The 2021 US Open champion, ranked 77th, faces Poland’s Magda Linette next.

Fellow Briton Jack Draper needed just 55 minutes to win his opener, setting up a meeting with compatriot Dan Evans.

Later on Thursday, Andy Murray aims to join the pair in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open, which is one of the biggest events outside of the four Grand Slam tournaments.

Since sensationally winning the US Open as a virtually unknown teenage qualifier, Raducanu has been unable to build on that success as her progress continues to be stalled by fitness problems.

Various injuries over the course of 2022 wrecked her chances of finding momentum in her first full year on the WTA Tour and the wrist problem that ended her season returned to threaten her participation in Indian Wells.

With tonsillitis also forcing her out of a tournament in Austin last week, the British number one summed up her fortunes by telling BBC Sport: “When it rains, it pours.”

But an efficient victory over 62nd-ranked Kovinic – in Raducanu’s first match since losing to Coco Gauff at the Australian Open – should help lift any lingering gloom.

Raducanu did not appear totally over her recent illness and trailed 2-0 in each of the two sets, but grew in confidence as 28-year-old Kovinic produced a stream of errors.

Kovinic played some loose shots and struggled with her first-serve percentage in both sets, with Raducanu staying patient and playing smart to grind out a solid win.

Draper impresses as he also makes comeback

Jack Draper returns a ball in his Indian Wells first-round match
Jack Draper impressed on his first competitive appearance after a seven-week lay-off

Raducanu’s victory came shortly after 21-year-old Draper thrashed Switzerland’s Leandro Riedi 6-1 6-1.

The left-hander had also not played since mid-January when he lost to Spain’s Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open.

Showing no signs of the leg injury he had been dealing with, Draper looked sharp as he dismantled 135th-ranked Riedi’s serve.

Draper, ranked 56th, broke in six of his seven return games as well as dominating on his own serve.

Despite a seven-week lay-off, Draper showed why is one of the ATP Tour’s rising young stars by striking the ball confidently and consistently in an impressive performance.

The rapid win sets up an intriguing match against 24th seed Evans, who will surely provide a sterner test than Riedi did on his debut in an ATP Masters event.

Evans, 32, received a first-round bye in the Californian desert and the Davis Cup team-mates will play each other competitively for the first time later this week.

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