Indian Wells: Draper-Murray set, while Raducanu and Norrie earn contrasting victories

Jack Draper of Great Britain celebrates against Dan Evans of great Britain in the second round of BNP Paribas Open on March 11, 2023 in Indian Wells,...

After narrowly losing an exhibition match to the Scot before Christmas, rising British prospect Jack Draper gets a maiden competitive clash against his role model Andy Murray as both won their second-round matches in straight-sets over the weekend. Elsewhere, Emma Raducanu overcame early adversity against Magda Linette and Cameron Norrie did things the hard way overnight.

Murray holds his nerve against Albot

Andy Murray of Great Britain celebrates his victory over Radu Albot of Moldova in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open on March 11, 2023 in...
Murray celebrates after logging his first straight-sets win for five months

Murray bt. Albot 6-4, 6-3

Andy Murray revealed he felt ‘very nervous’ pre-match but acknowledged it was probably because he was presented with a golden opportunity to seize.

News of 15th seed Pablo Carreno Busta’s withdrawal came late the previous evening, giving Moldovan lucky loser Radu Albot a second-round clash in the Spaniard’s place.

Suddenly Murray went from the pre-match underdog to a heavy favourite against another first-time opponent armed with a free hit on Saturday evening.

The 33-year-old, who has already travelled 250-odd miles east to play in a Phoenix Challenger event, acquitted himself well early on during their rally exchanges.

Murray maintained resolute shot defence as time wore on, executing smart tennis during the match’s most important points while Albot’s forehand misfired too often.

He cited an improvement in his movement over the past six months, helping him play the style he wants: aggressive, serving well without gifting many cheap points.

By the end, they both recorded 16 winners but Albot had almost double the former world no. 1’s unforced error tally (35-18), with 23 on the forehand wing alone.

The result marks Murray’s first straight-sets win since beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in Gijon last October and although a bit tetchy in places, he needed that.

Why? Well, he’ll be tasked with downing another of the young crop in compatriot Jack Draper, after he won 6-4, 6-2 against Dan Evans [24] a few hours earlier.

Dan Evans of Great Britain congratulates Jack Draper of Great Britain during the BNP Paribas Open on March 11, 2023 in Indian Wells, California.

The first set was frantic and lasted nearly 70 minutes with three consecutive breaks of serve, but Draper held firm to save five break points in subsequent service games before intelligently serving it out.

Evans made him work for the lead, but Draper served his way out of tight situations and utilised the drop shot well, drawing the 32-year-old into the net and frequently passing him.

Able to turn defence into attack with one shot was key, evidenced by a pair of highlight reel forehand winners from several feet behind the baseline at 4-2, 15-30 and the first point receiving at 5-3.

After saving two break points to hold at 2-2 in set two, the 21-year-old ultimately won five straight games to finish with a flourish.

The first Brit to reach R3 on their Indian Wells debut, he doesn’t want to stop there.

“I feel good, playing Dan is tough but I’m proud of the way I played. They [Evans, Norrie, Murray] have shown me the way, great people to look up to and get to this level quicker.”

Speaking of Norrie…

The 27-year-old hit 50 winners as he conjured up another of his trademark turnaround wins, recovering from a set and 4-1 down en route to a morale-boosting win over Japan’s Taro Daniel – whose giantkilling potential has only grown of late.

His reward is a rematch of last year’s US Open last-16 clash against Andrey Rublev, who beat him with minimal fuss (6-4, 6-4, 6-4) back at Flushing Meadows.

The tournament’s sixth seed started slowly but beat Ugo Humbert in straight-sets (7-5, 6-3), having secured revenge of his own at Jiri Lehecka’s expense in R1.

Raducanu responds well to stifle Linette

Emma Raducanu of Great Britain in action against Magda Linette of Poland in her second-round match on Day 6 of the 2023 BNP Paribas Open at the...
Raducanu has now beaten Linette twice in six months – both in straight-sets

Raducanu bt. Linette [20] 7-6 (7-3), 6-2

2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu didn’t have it all her own way, but made astute adjustments en route to a straight-sets win over Australian Open semifinalist Magda Linette elsewhere over the weekend’s action.

In the same section as world no. 1 Iga Swiatek, she’ll next play Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia [13] later tonight for a fourth-round berth, after the 26-year-old recovered from a set and 5-3 down to beat doubles specialist Katerina Siniakova.

For the first-half of set one, things were looking dicey for the 20-year-old Brit – her decision-making was scattered, spraying errors and repeatedly punished with passing winners for lacking assertiveness on her forward forays to the net.

Then, she changed up the direction of her groundstrokes and attacked Linette’s backhand. Despite being down 4-1 at one stage, the youngster was able to take charge soon enough, as you could see an increased confidence in her own shots too.

It’s no wonder she spoke in the post-match press conference about feeling more positive with her game, given how she can dictate when the forehand is firing.

This wasn’t perfect but didn’t need to be. Her first serve percentage (52%) was a worry, though she only lost four points (28/32) behind it and that spoke volumes down the stretch as quicker service holds were key in raising pressure on the Pole.

Raducanu still isn’t 100% fit either, having been adminstered anti-inflammatories deep in set one from the courtside physio as the discomfort in her wrist lingers. We’ll have to wait and see how it holds up, should matches get more intensive.

Rallies like this demoralising one Swiatek handed Claire Liu (6-0, 6-1) for example, would wear you down rather quickly:

Monday’s matches to watch include…

Bianca Andreescu of Canada & Iga Swiatek of Poland shake hands at the net after their quarter-final match during Day 6 of the Internazionali BNL...
Swiatek-Andreescu could be fun, as the first set of their Rome quarter-final was last year

Men’s draw
Hubert Hurkacz [17] vs. Tommy Paul [9]
Stan Wawrinka vs. Holger Rune [7]
Taylor Fritz [4] vs. Sebastian Baez [30]
Jack Draper vs. Andy Murray
Women’s draw
Leylah Fernandez [30] vs. Caroline Garcia [5]
Elena Rybakina [10] vs. Paula Badosa [21]
Ons Jabeur [4] vs. Marketa Vondrousova
Iga Swiatek [1] vs. Bianca Andreescu [32]

Picture source: Getty Images, quotes via Prime Video