A week ago in Indian Wells, a pair of US Open champions tested themselves against World No.1 Iga Swiatek. Bianca Andreescu lost in the third round and Emma Raducanu followed in the fourth.
Their Wednesday matchup (12 p.m. ET) offers another compelling progress report as two players that have been plagued by a variety of injuries attempt to recapture the form that made them major champions.
Indian Wells Day 1
- Giorgi outlasts Kanepi in Miami, ties for longest match of the year
- Begu saves five set points to survive Eala in Miami
Raducanu, who 18 months ago burst into prominence as the 2021 winner in New York, made some massive -- and unexpected -- strides at the BNP Paribas Open. Coming off an ankle injury that sidelined her for 50 days, the 20-year-old was also battling a bout of tonsillitis and a reoccurring wrist injury.
feeling👀🔒my kind of spring break. pic.twitter.com/K6ae7A86Vo— Emma Raducanu (@EmmaRaducanu) March 22, 2023
Nevertheless, she won three consecutive matches, the last two -- over Magda Linette and Beatriz Haddad Maia -- her best showing, in terms of rankings, since her breakthrough triumph.
The interesting thing? Because of those injuries, Raducanu assessed her fitness level at 35 percent.
“Feels good, gives me confidence,” she told reporters. “I think especially because of where I was before this tournament, didn’t think I would even play, to be honest. When I’m telling you I haven’t trained, like I haven’t trained.
“Yeah, I would say there is a very long way to go, but I’m definitely starting the right work now.”
While Raducanu fell to Swiatek 6-3, 6-1, Andreescu was more competitive. She forced Swiatek, the eventual semifinalist, to a second-set tiebreak before losing 6-3, 7-6(1). Afterward, Swiatek described Andreescu’s difficult game.
“I think the thing that she’s doing differently than other players is the way she changes the rhythm with those pretty annoying high balls,” Swiatek said, smiling. “I think that’s the hardest thing. It seems like you can be aggressive playing against her, but on the other hand, she’s really good at defense and she’s playing the slices that are tricky sometimes. You have to be ready for that.”
The only event in which Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, won three straight matches this year -- the Thailand Open in early February -- she retired to Lesia Tsurenko after receiving neck and shoulder treatment.
Raducanu and Andreescu have met only once, last year in Rome’s first round. Trailing 6-2, 2-1, Raducanu retired with a back injury that had bothered her earlier in Stuttgart and Madrid.
Americans on parade
There are two other former Grand Slam singles champions among the eight Americans in play on Wednesday.
Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion, meets fellow American Shelby Rogers (7 p.m. ET). Believe it or not, Stephens (ranked No.47) and Rogers (No.42) have never played a formal WTA Tour match.
The 2020 Australian Open winner, Sofia Kenin, also on the comeback path, meets Australian qualifier Storm Hunter. Amanda Anisimova plays Madison Brengle in another all-American contest. Taylor Townsend joins two U.S. wild cards -- Ashlyn Krueger and Robin Montgomery-- in action.