Sabalenka, Gauff advance at Indian Wells

Sabalenka, Gauff advance at Indian Wells


Reigning Grand Slam champions Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff reached the fourth round of the ATP-WTA Indian Wells Masters on Monday with challenging straight-set wins.

But former number one and 2018 tournament winner Naomi Osaka failed to join them, with the Japanese player eliminated 7-5, 6-4 by Elise Mertens, who now takes on Gauff.

The Belgian saved three break points in the final game, advancing on her second match point which drew an Osaka error.

Osaka, a four-time winner at the majors, is making her return to tennis this season after giving birth.

Earlier, double Australian Open trophy-holder Sabalenka defeated Emma Raducanu 6-3, 7-5 but double-faulted on a match point and needed three more winning chances before finally going through.

The 2023 runner-up to Elena Rybakina here got a tougher than expected challenge from 2021 US Open champion Raducanu, who has returned to tournament tennis this year after an eight-month injury layoff.

Gauff, who won the US Open last September as a teenager, overcame Lucia Bronzetti 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) as she closed out victory in a tiebreaker with a minimum of drama.

Sabalenka is playing only her second event since claiming her second trophy at Melbourne Park; she has now won 13 of 15 matches this season.

Raducanu, ranked 250th and playing on a wild card entry, was able to convert on only one of her 10 break chances against the second seed.

Victory in 97 minutes ran Sabalenka’s WTA-leading total of Masters 1000 match wins to 82.

“I was super-happy to close this match in two sets; the last game was tight,” Sabalenka said.

“It was a key moment. If I had lost that game it would give her emotionally much more belief and confidence – going to the tiebreak you never know, It’s 50/50.

“I didn’t want that to happen. That’s why I felt relief after I closed this match in two sets.”

Gauff needed to fight to go past the 53rd-ranked Bronzetti, with the American finally closing out a straight-sets win with a tiebreaker.

The US Open champion who turns 20 on Wednesday won her sixth straight match against an Italian opponent.

“She played really well,” the winner said of Bronzetti. “But I was much better than in my last match – I’m improving with each one.”

In the men’s draw, seventh seed Holger Rune finally made it onto court after a first-round bye and a walkover in the second round against injured Milos Raonic.

The 20-year-old Dane got off and running in the event with a 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) defeat of Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti, earning revenge for a loss on grass last June at Queen’s Club, London.

“It feels great to finally get started,” he said after reaching the fourth round here for the first time.

“The wait is finally over, I was so eager to play, though I did get two extra practice days.” This month’s Acapulco semi-finalist said that he could have played better against Musetti.

“I’m working to convert as many break points as possible. At the start of the second set I could have done more – but you learn from it all,” he said. “I’m just happy to get the win in good form.”

Norway’s ninth seed Casper Ruud advanced past Arthur Fils of France 6-2, 6-4.

French showstopper Gael Monfils ended the run of 2021 champion Cameron Norrie, with the 36-year-old winner and the Briton playing a massive 31 break points in a match won by Monfils 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5), 6-3.

Tommy Paul earned a home win with his 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Dubai champion Ugo Humbert. Taylor Fritz joined him, 6-2, 6-2 over Argentine Sebastian Baez. str/rcw

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