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Halep advances to the third round at Indian Wells to face Raducanu conqueror Sasnovich

The former world No 1 came through a tough opening set before easing past Marta Kostyuk 7-6, 6-1 in what was her first match since her split from coach Darren Cahill

Simona Halep Indian Wells 2021 AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Former world No 1 Simona Halep opened her bid for a first title of 2021 with a hard-fought but eventually impressive 7-6 (2), 6-1 victory over Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells on Friday.

In her first match since splitting from long-time coach Darren Cahill – and her first since getting married earlier this month – Halep trailed 3-1 in the first set but once she had won the tiebreak 7-2, she pulled away to clinch victory and set up a third-round clash with Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who upset US Open champion Emma Raducanu in the evening session match.

“It’s really nice to be healthy again and be able to compete at this level,” said Halep, who missed three months this year, including Roland-Garros, because of injury.

“It means a lot to play tennis at this level this year because I was injured and not able to play for many months. I came here, I was a bit more aggressive than normal. I’m trying to improve. My attitude was not great but it’s a pleasure to be back here.”

After more than six years together with Cahill, on and off, Halep announced earlier this month that the two were going their separate ways. The former world No 1, now coached by Adrian Marcu and Daniel Dobre, showed her competitive spirit as she recovered from a slow start to beat the world No 58.

Next up for Halep is Sasnovich, the world No 100, from Belarus, who defeated 18-year-old Raducanu 6-2, 6-4.

Swiatek earns first win at Indian Wells

It’s hard to believe but Iga Swiatek’s only previous experience of Indian Wells was losing in the second round of the qualifying event in 2019.

Two and a half years on, the Pole is a Grand Slam champion having won the French Open in 2020 and now she owns at least one Indian Wells win, having cruised to a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Petra Martic of Croatia.

“In 2019, I wasn’t playing that confident, but I’m really happy that times have changed now,” No 2 seed Swiatek said. “There are many places (I haven’t played) because I couldn’t finish my season in 2019, and last year, we only had six tournaments, so it’s pretty exciting,” said the Pole, who will now meet No. 25 seed Veronika Kudermetova.

Fourth seed Elina Svitolina was another early winner on day three, beating Tereza Martincova 6-2, 7-5.

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