Stephens, Keys kick off Indian Wells main-draw action with roller-coaster wins

Sloane Stephens advances in Indian Wells as competition in the main draw got underway on Thursday. Check out the rest of our women’s Day 1 recap

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Sloane Stephens began her fortnight at the BNP Paribas Open with a 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-1 victory over Heather Watson on Wednesday afternoon. Stephens needed two hours and 50 minutes to set up an all-American showdown against Jessica Pegula on Friday.

The 28-year-old, who reached the third round of the recent US Open where she went down to Angelique Kerber, has advanced to the Indian Wells quarter-finals only once in her career, so she would welcome some success in the desert this fortnight. For a while, it looked like not even a single win would come, as Stephens dropped the first set to Watson and then also got broken at love to begin the second set. However, the world No 73 broke right back in the second game — which went to five deuces. Stephens eventually survived two deuces while serving at 5-5 and then broke her opponent in the next game to force a deciding set.

With momentum in hand, Stephens raced to a 5-0 lead in the decider. After Watson finally got on the scoreboard with a hold, Sloane Stephens saved three break points at 5-1 and scrambled across the finish line.

Madison Keys joins friend Sloane Stephens into second round

Madison Keys, who lost to Stephens in the 2017 US Open final, joined her compatriot in the round of 64 after defeating former top 20 player Kaia Kanepi 6-0, 7-5.

Keys reeled off an incredible 21 consecutive points from 1-0 in the first set to 1-0 in the second. The world No 50 eventually seized a 3-0 lead in the second set, seemingly with visions of a double-bagel. Instead, Kanepi went on a streak of five straight games of her own for a sudden 5-3 advantage. Wild momentum swings continued, however, and Keys answered by taking the final four games of the match. This was Keys’ first win since Wimbledon in early July.

American Shelby Rogers, who stunned world No 1 Ash Barty at the US Open, joined her countrywomen in the second round with a 7-6, 6-2 win over Anhelina Kalinina.

Other Day 1 winners in the main draw were Liudmila Samsonova, Yulia Putintseva, Marta Kostyuk, Petra Martic, Su-Wei Hsieh, Arantxa Rus, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Jasmine Paolini, Tereza Martincova, Magda Linette, Misaki Doi, Irina-Camelia Begu and Alize Cornet.

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