Indian Wells 2022: Emma Raducanu beaten in hot desert marathon by Petra Martic

Big women’s names tumble early, including Muguruza, Sabalenka, Ostapenko, Osaka

Emma Raducanu
Emma Raducanu (Photo: Eurosport / YouTube)

It was not the most auspicious start for what is affectionately known as ‘the fifth Major’, but the prestigious Indian Wells tournament has drawn the fans in droves despite the late withdrawal of both the world No1s, Ash Barty and Novak Djokovic, and then the women’s No2, Barbora Krejcikova.

And the men’s draw kept to the script, to the delight of those fans. Three-time former champion Rafael Nadal survived the sternest of tests to continue his unbeaten 2022 run.

Former world No1 and double Olympic champion Andy Murray won his 700th match to advance to the second round after losing the first set, 6-1.

The new world No1, Daniil Medvedev, proved his worth in little more than an hour, taking one step nearer the quarters that could consolidate his place at the top of the ranks.

For the women, the 2021 champion and No5 seed Paula Badosa began her defence by beating Tereza Martincova for the first time in four previous meetings. Incidentally, away from the spotlight, the defending men’s champion, Cameron Norrie, also cruised to the third round: He will rightly expect a show court for his next match as his female equivalent enjoyed for her first.

But while Badosa stayed on track, many others among the remaining big names in the women’s draw did not. The biggest shock was perhaps the loss of four-time Major champion Naomi Osaka, winner in the desert in 2018. Upset by a heckle from the packed Centre Court, she could not regain her composure in time to fend off the impressive No21 seed Veronika Kudermetova, who had reached two finals already in 2022.

That was not all. Dubai champion and Doha semi-finalist Jelena Ostapenko lost her opener, as did Ons Jabeur and the highest remaining woman in the draw, world No3 Aryna Sabalenka. They joined six more seeds who had lost their openers the previous day, including No8 seed Garbine Muguruza and No7 Karolina Pliskova.

And so, as the top half of Round 3 matches got under way on the women’s side, two of the youngest Major champions were left to take centre stage.

No3 seed Iga Swiatek, age just 20, the French Open champion in 2020, and recently winner of the WTA1000 in Doha, faced the 19-year-old Dane Clara Tauson, seeded 29. Swiatek, who has rapidly become one of the most popular and articulate of the new stars in tennis, could even climb past Krejcikova to No2 in the world this week, but Tauson herself was on a fast-rising trajectory.

And another young star, even younger than Swiatek and considerably less experienced on the main tour, 19-year-old Emma Raducanu would play the opening slot on this hot Sunday, just as she had for her first ever win at Indian Wells two days ago.

This time, she faced the older and more experienced 31-year-old Petra Martic, who was responsible for putting out No19 seed Tamara Zidansek. But for all the 12 years age difference, it was Raducanu who had the US Open title to her name, even if her start to 2022 had been marred by injury and lack of match-play.

She won that US Open, her first ever title, in only her fourth tour-level event, and without dropping a set in the process—the first qualifier to win a Major title. It took her inside the top 20 from 350 this time last year.

Now she was into just her 11th main draw, and had shown her maturity and stamina in beating Caroline Garcia in three sets in her opener. Here, she had a quick chance to break against the very different style of play of the Croat, who has a game that uses spin and changes in pace to disrupt the rhythm of opponents.

The Briton could not convert, and instead, Martic got the first break in the third game, and consolidated with a love hold, 3-1.

It did not take long for Raducanu to respond, and begin to read better the tricksy drop shots, lobs and changes of direction. She broke back for 3-3, and her depth on the forehand drew errors and another break.

But serving a 5-3, Martic deployed all her tactical nous, forcing Raducanu to rush and make errors: a break to level things again. And the Croat began to find her serve, pacey and accurate into the corners, followed up by some penetrating baseline play. She held to love to take it to a tie-break.

There, Martic missed a big forehand to go 2-4 at the change of ends, and a cross-court forehand winner from the Briton took it to 2-5. A superb backhand winner made it three set points, and a forehand pass by Raducanu finished it, 7-6(3), after an hour of high-quality tennis.

An early exchange of breaks in the second set preluded some fine tennis from Martic, who survived a long hold in the fifth game, and then confidently pulled off some winning volleys to break again, 4-2. The advantage did not last in this see-sawing contest, but Raducanu was serving second and conceded another break for the set, 6-4.

The Briton was showing signs of fatigue in the oppressive midday heat, and wearing the ice collar at changes of end, and sure enough, with Martic running her hither and thither, she looked uncomfortable—and was broken.

But Raducanu seemed to shake it off, broke back, only to suffer another break as she served for the match at 5-4. Too many errors from the Briton and more energy in the Croat’s tennis proved decisive, and a final break of a weary Raducanu serve was enough. Another seed and Indian Wells favourite was out, 7-5.

Martic, a former top-15 player, had not won a match against a top-20 player in two-and-a-half years, but she had shown just what a tough and skilled competitor she was, though hindered for so long mid-career by back injuries.

Her next opponent would be No28 seed Liudmila Samsonova, who beat Danka Kovinic, 6-4, 7-6(4).

So in the top half, only Swiatek remained of the top 15 ranked women in the tournament. Would she survive Tauson and keep her No2 campaign alive?

Note: Andy Murray was beaten in Round 3 by Alexander Bublik, 7-6(9), 6-3.

Note 2: Swiatek advanced to the fourth round after beating Tauson, 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-1.

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