Indian Wells: Draper, Raducanu win in straight-sets before another masterful Murray display

Andy Murray of Great Britain celebrates in his match agains Tomas Martin Etcheverry of Argentina during the BNP Paribas Open on March 09, 2023 in...

Having both not featured since Melbourne, there were successful returns to competitive action for Jack Draper and Emma Raducanu, who made it 2-0 for Brits on Thursday at Indian Wells. Keeping in theme with his heroics of late, Andy Murray expertly fended off danger in another three-hour epic, outlasting Masters 1000 debutant Tomas Martin Etcheverry to cap an eventful day session.

Raducanu back on winning trail

Emma Raducanu of Great Britain celebrates her victory over Danka Kovinic of Montenegro in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open on March 09, 2023...
Raducanu applauds the crowd after a straightforward win, with revenge served on Kovinic

Raducanu bt. Kovinic 6-2, 6-3

2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu returned to competitive action with a straight-sets victory over an error-strewn Danka Kovinic, avenging her rollercoaster Australian Open defeat by the Montenegrin 14 months ago.

The 20-year-old Brit will play Poland’s Magda Linette [20) in R2 on Saturday evening, after the veteran’s best ever Major result in January saw her rewarded with a seed and subsequent first-round bye.

Kovinic began promisingly on paper, earning breaks to lead 2-0 in each set. However, she repeatedly struggled to maintain longer rallies and put the 2021 US Open champion under duress.

Raducanu, an injury doubt before the tournament, revealed a recurrence of the wrist injury that prematurely ended her 2022 season had resurfaced.

She was breathing heavily at times, coughing and clearly not 100% during this match but as promised, prepared well enough to compete.

That she did, helped in part by Kovinic’s whopping 32 unforced errors in 17 games played – almost two every game.

Couple that with her four double-faults and you can see how Raducanu gladly seized upon those free points, accompanied by steady ball-striking herself.

She won 21 more total points (62-41) but will know tougher tests await if she’s to go deep in a tournament for the first time since Seoul last September, outplaying Linette (6-2, 6-3) en route to the semis. Post-match, she said as much:

“It was a good match for me to get through, Danka’s extremely difficult to play, was expecting a battle. Happy I stuck in [from 2-0 down], mentally just took it a point at a time. Magda’s had a great season so far, I know it [their previous meeting] was quite physical so looking forward to it.”

… after Draper dismisses agemate Riedi

Jack Draper of Great Britain celebrates his victory over Leandro Riedi of Switzerland in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open on March 09, 2023 in...
Draper celebrates after a rapid win over Switzerland’s Leandro Riedi

Draper bt. Riedi 6-1, 6-1

Leandro Riedi had to come through two rounds of qualifying, including a straight-sets win over France’s Alexandre Muller – but faced an imperious Jack Draper display.

Draper, who like Raducanu hadn’t featured since the Aussie Open through injury, has been backed by many of his contemporaries to win a tour-level ATP title this year.

If he can maintain composure in pressure situations while staying assertive behind his first serve, why not?

Riedi, a Masters 1000 debutant, has proven himself to be a powerful ball-striker from the baseline and can punish opposition groundstrokes without adequate depth.

That’s why it would’ve been alarming to see him spill four consecutive forehand errors, relinquishing a break to go 4-1 down in set one. Draper, rusty or not, didn’t need a second invitation to take advantage and aced his way into R2 in 55 minutes.

Having soundly beaten someone just a month younger than him, now he faces a wily compatriot in Dan Evans [24] on Saturday night.

A much different test is up next, but Evans’ four-match losing streak may allow the world no. 29 to play freely against a youngster whose breakthrough feels inevitable.

Murray navigates past another three-hour thriller

Tomas Martin Etcheverry of Argentina celebrates during his match against Andy Murray of Great Britain in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open on...
Tomas Martin Etcheverry came him all he could handle, but Murray reigned supreme

Murray bt. Etcheverry 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-4

Andy Murray conceded the luck will level out and he’ll lose one eventually, but improved to 7-0 in deciding set matches this year after going the distance in another hard-fought battle – this time beating Chile Open finalist Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

The 23-year-old was another Masters 1000 debutant in action but you wouldn’t have known it. He provisionally drops ten world ranking spots to #71 after this defeat, but was firmly a match for the Brit – a commendable runner-up in Doha last month.

He wisely withdrew from Dubai the following week citing injury prevention and it was almost as if he knew, these lengthy battles would continue.

His average match time this year heading into this contest was three hours two minutes, an unsettling stat given 6-of-9 have come in a best-of-three set format.

Nonetheless, you could sense this would go the distance again after narrowly losing the first set tiebreak.

Etcheverry’s big service holds were key in prolonging games from an ominous scoreline: twice recovering from 0-40 down to hold in set one, before doing it again early in the decider.

Murray was chuntering to himself, aware he needed to seize a break point opportunity before the momentum switched on him. It very nearly did in the subsequent game, though he recovered from 0-30 to level at two games apiece.

After both earned relatively straightforward service holds, Murray produced some gutsy shot-making to save two break points and served his way out of trouble, levelling again at 4-4.

Those deftly-executed defensive lobs were on display once more for the former world no. 1, whose court awareness and anticipation were key in making Etcheverry have to play an extra shot or three.

He saved three break points himself, down 0-40, but crucially his first serve deserted him as he looked to flip pressure back onto the three-time Major champion.

A double-fault on the fifth break opportunity opened the door for Murray, who finished defiantly in the very next game.

Having pulled a drop shot narrowly wide on his first match point, he had the gall to replicate the same shot at a tighter angle with a delicate touch – winning the subsequent point.

An ace out wide saw him finish the job in three hours 12 minutes, ten more than his season average. Before he limped off to kickstart the recovery before another tough test against Canadian Open champion Pablo Carreno Busta [15] on Saturday, he said:

“I had a lot of chances in the third set and was getting really frustrated, came with some big serves but made some poor decisions as well, the more chances went by, the more you think about it. Fortunate he hit the double-fault to give me the break, another brutal match and glad I got through.

Last year, I lost a lot of them [deciding set matches], the law of averages says it can’t keep going and I would feel more comfortable in these situations. I’m aware I will lose one but worked really hard in the offseason, put myself in a great position physically, very motivated and fighting to find solutions.

on Carreno Busta next: He’s a top player, incredibly we’ve never played each other even though we’ve been on tour so long – maybe practiced once or twice, seen him play a lot obviously but it’s always different, he’s a top player and has been in the world’s top 20-25 for a long time.”

Picture source: Getty Images, quotes via Prime Video